BAGRAM AIR BASE, Oct 28: The movement of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan has increased since Islamabad signed a deal with tribal elders along the border last month, Nato’s top military commander said on Saturday.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force was monitoring the situation after the agreement with pro-Taliban elders in Pakistan’s North Waziristan area, Gen James Jones told reporters.

“Preliminary indications are that the movements across the border have increased since the signing of agreements on the other side of the border,” he said at the end of a three-day visit to Afghanistan.

ISAF was however still evaluating the situation and the first indications may not be conclusive, he said.

“We are watching it very closely,” he said.

Nato is building a new relationship with Pakistan as part of efforts to address the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, which was a regional problem, he said.

ISAF commanders were due to meet with the Pakistan military in the coming weeks, he said, with the Nato-led force wanting to remove militant sanctuaries in the region and stop the cross-border movement of fighters.

APOLOGY: Gen Jones apologised for civilian casualties in anti-Taliban strikes as an investigation continued into claims that scores died this week.

Gen Jones blamed insurgents for the killing of civilians in Kandahar, saying they had been using ordinary people as cover to avoid International Security Assistance Force fire.

Typically, “insurgents do not play by the same rules that we would like to play by,” Gen Jones told reporters.

“In this particular case, sadly there appears to have been loss of life and innocent people who were wounded in a legitimate mission where insurgents were using the cover of the civilian population to make it very difficult for us to get at them.”

Gen Jones said military commanders did what they could to avoid involving civilians in battle. “Sometimes in the heat of battle, the fog of war, in the middle of the night when it is hard to separate one from the other, you make a decision on the spot,” he said.

—AFP

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