Afghanistan's defense minister is in Washington, promoting his plan to establish a joint Afghan-Pakistani military force to patrol the dangerous border between the two countries. VOA's Kent Klein reports.
Violence in Afghanistan this year is at its highest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Some 3,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan during the past year. U.S. President George Bush has promised to send about 4,500 additional American troops to Afghanistan in January.
One of the most violent areas of Afghanistan is the mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, where the leaders of the Taliban and the al-Qaida terror network are believed to be operating.
Afghanistan's Defense Minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, says he wants to work with his counterparts in Pakistan to create a joint military force to fight terrorism in the region.
"We need to establish an enhanced mechanism for practical cross-border cooperation, including strengthening routine links between our military, border security and law enforcement institutions. We must move beyond diplomacy and confidence-builing exchanges, to the delivery of practical results," he said.
Wardak spoke Wednesday at a forum at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based research institute.
"We should help each other interfere with the terrorists' communication, planning, weapon procurement, training and capturing their senior leadership. I continue to believe that we need mechanisms for responding jointly to incidents, whichever side of the border they occur," he said.
General Wardak says he has not discussed the proposal with Pakistani officials.
Wardak acknowledges that the Taliban is gaining strength and becoming more organized. But he says Afghanistan's national security forces and police have been improving steadily, and that he is optimistic that stability and security can be achieved.
The defense minister says international support will be crucial in the near term.
"An increase of international forces is welcome, and can provide transitional relief, until the Afghan national security forces are fully developed. But the Afghan national security forces are the long-term solution," he said.
General Wardak says the second factor for success is whether Afghanistan's electoral institutions deliver a legitimate, elected government. The third, he says, is international pressure to deny safe haven, sanctuary and support for terrorists.
The Afghan defense minister says turning back the recent surge in violence will require increasing the size of Afghanistan's Army from 76,000 troops to 134,000.