As thousands of U.S. Marines push deep inside Taliban territory in
southern Afghanistan, there is concern in Pakistan that fleeing Afghan
insurgents will cross the porous border, putting more pressure on the
army as it wages its own campaign to rid Pakistan of Islamic
this week's surge of 4,000 Marines and hundreds of Afghan forces into
Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, the issue of how such a bold
move would impact Pakistan was already on the minds of top U.S. policy
The top U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan,
Richard Holbrooke, was very public about his concerns regarding the
possible influx of Islamic fighters into Pakistan during a visit to
Islamabad last month.
"We are concerned that there may be some
spillover effect, as there was in the past," he said. "I've raised it
repeatedly in Washington and here [Pakistan] and in Kabul. I don't
want to be an alarmist here."
"But the one thing that is very important
is that as the ISAF (NATO) forces operate in the areas near the
Pakistan border, that the impact on Pakistan be taken into account at
all times and that the Pakistani security forces are properly aware of
what the military actions are so they can do what is necessary to
protect your border," he added.
Just hours after the announcement of
"Operation Strike of the Sword," aimed at securing Helmand province,
the Pakistani military deployed soldiers to the rugged and porous
border in southern Baluchistan, situated directly across from Helmand.
concerns come at a particularly challenging time for the army. The
military is trying to complete a two-month offensive to dislodge
Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley region, and will soon begin a
similar operation to hunt down top Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in
Top army spokesman Major General Athar
Abbas says Pakistani officials have been speaking to U.S. and Afghan
officials about how to prevent the infiltration of insurgents.
are coordinating with each other. We are sharing intelligence," he
said. "Whenever there is an operation close to the border area where
there is a possibility of either exchange of firing or crossing. So we
keep each other informed and both sides remain well-informed so that
they can avoid the possibility of accidental fire or friendly fire. "
But the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is long and notoriously easy to cross, especially in southern Baluchistan.
is facing other burdens, too. Among them: how to repatriate the more
than two million people displaced by the Swat Valley offensive.
an estimated 87 percent of those who have been displaced are not in
camps, those who are will soon be confronted by Pakistan's monsoon
(rainy) season. Humanitarian relief officials warn that heavy rains
could spread water-borne diseases in the camps, which are made up of
tents that will not be able to withstand pounding rains.
Martin Mogwanja is the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.
will also need possibly additional resources," he said. "There may have
to be some camps or parts of camps that would have to be moved. As you
know, some of the camps are in the low lying areas and the most
flood-prone districts are Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera and Peshawar. Those
are the same districts where there are a majority of IDP camps."
U.S. Marines continued their new offensive across the Pakistani border
in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, militants targeted a military base
in the east with a truck bomb. The attack in Paktika province sparked
a long battle that left two U.S. soldiers dead. Airstrikes were called
in to end the fighting, which local officials say killed more than two
dozen Taliban fighters.