By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011 – Despite a hiccup in communications between U.S. and Pakistani military units on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border following the Osama bin Laden raid, cooperation generally has been good and is getting better, the commander of International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East said today.
Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, who also commands the 101st Airborne Division, said that after the bin Laden raid, communication issues arose “for a day or two” between U.S. and Pakistani commanders.
But the situation has recovered, the general said, noting that two days ago, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade held a border flag meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.
“Col. Sean Jenkins … will tell you that was the best border flag meeting he’s had,” Campbell told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. “So we continue to see great cooperation, at least at the tactical level.”
The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan are totally intertwined, Campbell said, and you cannot think about strategy in either country separately. Campbell said he and the division’s soldiers have been working to improve the working relationship with the Pakistani 11th Corps since they arrived last year.
“I’ve gone to Pakistan several times,” he said, adding that Pakistani Lt. Gen. Muhammed Asif has come to Afghanistan.
“At the tactical operational level, that cooperation over the last two months is really the best we’ve ever seen it -- battalion to battalion, brigade to brigade, [and at] the border flag meetings that we conduct,” Campbell said. “Opening those lines of communication has helped all across the 450-plus miles of border that Regional Command East shares with Pakistan.”
A month ago, the coalition launched Operation Strong Eagle 3 in northern Kunar province. “As we conducted that operation, our Pakistani counterparts were able to do complementary ops on their side of the border that enhanced, really, what we were able to do with our Afghan counterparts in Kunar,” Campbell said.
The Pakistanis have operations in Mohmand province, where U.S. forces were able to return the favor. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates talks of the U.S. and Pakistani forces acting as the hammer and anvil, with Taliban forces between the two tools.
Campbell said he has not spoken to his Pakistani counterpart since U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 1, but he will continue to nurture the relationship, because it is necessary. Two years ago, he said, Pakistan had only 30,000 troops in the border region and a Taliban revolt brewing.
Now, the general said, 140,000 Pakistani troops are on the border. They have taken major casualties, he added, and they are cooperating with coalition and Afghan forces.
“We value that relationship -- and not only the coalition to the Pakistanis, but also our Afghan counterparts with the Pakistani forces -- because, in the end, they’ve got to continue to work ‘shana to shana’ themselves -- shoulder to shoulder,” he said.