Friday, January 19, 2007

U.S. to Work With Pakistan to Counter Infiltrators

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 17, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today he will work with Pakistan to solve the problem of infiltrators crossing into Afghanistan. "There's no question that there has been a significant increase in attacks from across the border, in particular (from) North and South Waziristan, and it is a problem," Gates said during a news conference yesterday after visiting Forward Base Tillman.

"By the same token," he said, "Pakistan is one of America's strongest allies in the
war on terror, and we will continue working with the Pakistanis to see if there is a way that we can begin to reduce the violence coming from that side of the border."

The Waziristan border area in Pakistan is a particular hotspot, defense officials said.

Recently, U.S. and Afghan forces killed 130 Taliban terrorists trying to infiltrate into Afghanistan from Pakistan from this area. The official said that "jingle trucks," trucks decorated with various designs and bells, pulled up near the border with Afghanistan inside Pakistan.

Fully armed men got out of the trucks and began walking past a border control point into Afghanistan. Repeated calls to Pakistani authorities in the border fort to intervene went unanswered.

The Taliban and terrorist groups including al Qaeda, plan attacks in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan. They restock weapons in Pakistan and find refugee camps in Afghanistan a fertile recruiting ground for insurgent fighters.

The Pashtun tribal belt embraces the entire border area with Pakistan. "Families and tribes straddle the border, and that plays a role in how people regard the border," the official said.

Pakistani tribal leaders signed an agreement on Sept. 5 to handle cross-border raids. However, cross border attacks increased 200 percent in December 2006 from the same period in 2005, officials said.

In every type of attack, 2006 was worse than 2005, the official, speaking on background, said.

In 2005, there were 27 suicide attacks in all of Afghanistan. In 2006, the number jumped to 139. Taliban and foreign fighters attacked 98 schools in 2005. In 2006, they attacked 129.

There were 1,558 incidences of direct fire against coalition and NATO forces in 2005, with 4,542 in 2006. Indirect fire incidents jumped to 1,511 from 599.

And there were 1,677 improvised-explosive-device attacks in 2006, compared with 783 in 2005. A total of 116 innocent Afghan men, women and children were killed in these terrorist attacks.

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