By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 24, 2008 - Senior U.S. and Pakistani military officials are working hard to improve communications and collaboration between their organizations, especially with regard to operations along the 450-mile-long Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a senior U.S. officer posted in Afghanistan said today. U.S.-Pakistani relations were roiled after Pakistan claimed that 11 of its troops were killed during a June 10 U.S. air strike aimed at insurgents operating near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
A joint U.S., Afghan and Pakistani military investigation of the incident is ongoing, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 101 and 101st Airborne Division told Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference.
"When I met with my counterpart there in Pakistan, I expressed condolences to any loss of life, and we agree that we look forward to collaborating and communicating better," said Schloesser, who arrived in Afghanistan in April and also heads counterinsurgency operations for NATO's Regional Command East.
Schloesser has made three trips to Pakistan over the past three months, he said, to meet with senior Pakistani army leaders.
Insurgents travel back and forth along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, he said. Some insurgents, he said, also are known to maintain camps in the federally administered tribal area in Pakistan's remote northwestern region.
"The enemy is taking refuge and operating with what I will call some freedom of movement in the border region," Schloesser said, "and they're using this sanctuary to reconstitute, to plan and to launch attacks into Afghanistan."
Some insurgents, he said, are trying to stir up trouble between U.S. and Pakistani troops aligned along the border.
"They try to get between us and our Pakistani army colleagues and try to not only just cause absolute confrontation, but real firing between the two of us," Schloesser said. Meanwhile, senior U.S. and Pakistani military officials are working hard to keep the lines of communication open, the two-star general said.
"We are trying to build on lines of communication between ourselves and our Pakistani (army) colleagues," Schloesser said, by routinely using radios and cell phones as well as meetings to keep one another up to date on conditions along the border.
Senior Afghan army leaders also are involved in discussions on border issues, Schloesser said.
A border coordination center that recently opened near the historic Khyber Pass that links Afghanistan and Pakistan should facilitate better collaboration and communications between Afghan and Pakistani border security personnel, the general said.
"I think both sides understand that the relative sanctuary that is achieved along that border area is damaging to both Afghanistan, as well as to Pakistan," he observed. "And I think both sides understand that that cannot continue."
Schloesser expressed optimism that U.S., Afghan and Pakistani military officials "can work more closely, as I've already described."