ISLAMABAD: The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan is resisting Islamabad’s pressure for a big push against terrorists in eastern Afghan provinces, where most of Pakistani Taliban have set up sanctuaries and have launched multiple attacks from there on Pakistan’s border checkposts.
The differences could result in another rough patch in military and intelligence ties between Pakistan and the US, which leads the Nato mission in Afghanistan. The relations were gradually improving after months of friction.
Isaf Commander Gen John Allen, who was on his first visit to Pakistan on Wednesday after taking over the coalition command in Afghanistan, had to listen to protests by Pakistani generals upset over the ease with which Pakistani Taliban who, after fleeing military operations in the country, launched attacks in Dir and Chitral from their sanctuaries in Kunar and Nooristan.
A day earlier, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had visited Chitral and adjoining areas that witnessed Taliban attacks and the issue was also discussed on Thursday at the Corps Commanders conference, underscoring the seriousness being attached by the army to the issue.
Gen Allen, according to one source, was categorically told that it was the responsibility of Isaf and Afghan National Army to prevent future incursions. Pakistani military has avoided threatening hot pursuit of raiding militants; however, Gen Allen was told that further attacks would not be tolerated.
Pakistani forces in the past hit back at fleeing militants by firing rockets that strayed across the border, riling up Afghans. The strategy was later changed and use of “excessive force was avoided to prevent civilian casualties on Afghan side”.
Military officials suggest that the policy may be reversed if Isaf and the Afghan army did not act against sanctuaries of Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Isaf command had earlier announced that it would expand its operations eastwards to regions it had vacated a year ago, including Kunar and Nooristan, for interdicting insurgent operations along the Pak-Afghan border, but it is reluctant to launch another major operation.
The reduced troop number because of the drawdown has further complicated prospects of a major offensive in eastern provinces.
The Nato-led forces are now relying more on the Afghan army and special operations as they shift the focus back to the east.
Gen Allen in his meetings appeared to be confident that the new combination was working well, despite the fact that August saw the highest number of American fatalities since the war began in 2001 and the downing of Chinook helicopter by Taliban in eastern province of Wardak.
At the corps commanders’ conference, the army top brass agreed to augment paramilitary deployment in areas bordering Nooristan and Kunar to counter any attacks in future.
KARACHI SITUATION: The corps commanders’ conference was briefed about the operation by civilian law-enforcement agencies in Karachi against target killers.
There wasn’t any official word about what was decided about the operation in Karachi, but according to one source, the generals stressed for better intelligence sharing and coordination between LEAs and intelligence outfits.
The army has stayed out of the Karachi operation, but its command has been closely monitoring the situation and last week publicly demanded indiscriminate and broad-based operation against outlaws.
QUETTA CARNAGE: The generals expressed grief over the twin suicide attacks in Quetta on Wednesday in which 28 people, including a colonel and family members of Frontier Corps deputy commander Brig Farrukh Shahzad were killed.
The conference noted that such attacks wouldn’t weaken the military’s resolve to fight terrorism.