Pakistani general blames U.S.-led coalition for failing to stop Afghan rebels attacks |

Pakistani general blames U.S.-led coalition for failing to stop Afghan rebels attacks

KUNDIGAR, Pakistan – Ten thousand feet up on the border, Pakistani army positions dot the peaks and slopes of a steep mountain ridge to prevent al-Qaida and Taliban militants from sneaking into Afghanistan to stage attacks on Sunday’s elections.Stung by criticism that it is not doing enough to guard the rugged frontier, Pakistan said Thursday it has stepped up security and accused the U.S.-led coalition of deploying too few troops to protect eastern and southern Afghanistan.”You see the amount of effort we are making compared to them?” asked Brig. Imitiaz Wyne at Kundigar, the highest border post in the North Waziristan tribal region, opposite the volatile Afghan province of Paktika. He pointed to several of his troop positions, marked by smoke flares, on the heights about a mile away.The Pakistanis have 15 posts along this 16-mile-stretch of the border while the U.S. troops and Afghan army have only two posts, he told reporters at an army camp, where stone bunkers housed machine gunners in the pine forest. Green-and-white Pakistani national flags fluttered from treetops.Days before Afghans go to the polls, the Pakistan army whisked journalists from the capital, Islamabad, by helicopter to show off its border security efforts and what it describes as its biggest military operation yet in North Waziristan to rout an al-Qaida base.Soldiers this week raided a madrassa complex, or Islamic school, near the main town of Miran Shah. The school has been linked to a fugitive Taliban leader who is allegedly associated with al-Qaida.The army said it made 28 arrests and seized tons of weaponry – including rockets and anti-aircraft guns – communications equipment, military training manuals in Arabic and a suicide bomber’s jacket.The regional army chief, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, described the madrassa complex as a “logistics base for all kinds of terrorist activities.”The army appears to have been slow in stopping those activities, however. The madrassa is just over two miles from its main base in North Waziristan. Officers conceded authorities had raided the madrassa six times before but had failed to examine the surrounding buildings, where the weaponry was discovered this week. The Taliban leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, remains at large.Afghanistan’s top police official said Thursday that Osama bin Laden is strongly believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border after fleeing Afghanistan.”It isn’t possible for him to be (in Afghanistan) because of all the international forces here,” Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told reporters.Hussain disputed that, saying no senior terrorist figure such as bin Laden could be in the tribal areas because they have been cleared of militants and their supporters.An American military spokesman in Afghanistan, Col. James Yonts, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the United States did not know where bin Laden is.Pakistan bristles at accusations it lets Taliban rebels launch attacks from its soil into Afghanistan, where violence has escalated alarmingly this year. The fighting has killed 1,200 people over the past six months and cast a shadow over preparations for Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the next step to democracy after two decades of war.Hussain claimed there has been no infiltration from Pakistan to Afghanistan for months, and blamed the upsurge in attacks on the failures of the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces.Pakistan has 75,000 soldiers in its northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, and says it has 761 posts along its 375-mile stretch of the northwestern frontier, compared with 120 U.S. and Afghan army positions on the Afghan side. An extra 5,000 Pakistani troops were deployed in July.The U.S. military maintains about 20,000 soldiers in southern and eastern Afghanistan, fighting alongside a similar number from the fledgling Afghan army.”Pakistan is doing a lot more than they were doing,” U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann told reporters in Kabul on Thursday. “They have put thousands of troops on the border. … I think this is a considerable effort. It is going in the right direction.”Pakistan has suffered considerable losses as well. Some 268 soldiers have died in counterterrorism operations since late 2001. During the same period, 190 American service members died in or around Afghanistan.Yet Afghan officials remain highly suspicious of Pakistan because of its former support of the Taliban before Islamabad joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism that ousted the regime because it harbored al-Qaida.Also, religious schools in Pakistan have long been a recruiting ground for jihadis, or holy warriors, fighting in Afghanistan, an association going back to the U.S.-backed holy war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.Hussain said his forces were cracking on wayward clerics, and had raided four madrassas with links to militants. He said a list of 173 wanted people, mostly Pakistani Islamic clergy, has been drawn up, although so far only a few have been arrested.But he maintained militants’ main motive for fighting was money. He said unemployed youths and drug addicts might earn $250 in two weeks as mercenaries – a huge sum in this impoverished region.”Are these people religiously motivated? The answer is a big ‘no.’ Only about 5 or 10 percent are jihadis. The rest are riff-raff,” he said.Vail Colorado

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