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Petraeus: NATO, Afghan, Pakistani Forces to Coordinate More Operations

Gen. David Petraeus, left, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, meets US marines during his visit to Marjah, Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2010
Gen. David Petraeus, left, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, meets US marines during his visit to Marjah, Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2010

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan says NATO, Afghan and Pakistani forces will conduct more coordinated operations against Taliban insurgents on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday, General David Petraeus said forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan have operated in "very close coordination in the past two months." He said the security forces of both countries will have more opportunities to coordinate with U.S.-led NATO troops "as earlier gains are solidified."

Petraeus also praised Pakistan for its counter-insurgency efforts in the past two years in areas near the Afghan border where the Taliban and other militants seek shelter. He said Pakistani forces have conducted "impressive" operations in the Swat Valley, the North West Frontier Province and northwestern tribal regions.

The United States has long pressed Pakistan to clear those regions of insurgents who cross into Afghanistan to attack U.S.-led NATO forces. The pressure often has strained U.S.-Pakistani relations, with Islamabad bristling at suggestions that it should do more.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also criticized the U.S. practice of using drones to attack militants in Pakistani tribal regions. Speaking in the city of Multan Sunday, Mr. Gilani said the drone strikes are increasing Pakistan's problems. He also called for drone technology to be provided to Pakistani forces.

U.S. drones have carried out frequent attacks on militants in Pakistani border areas, but the strikes also have killed and wounded Pakistani civilians and stirred anger in Pakistani society.

The Afghan government also criticized U.S.-led NATO forces Sunday, accusing them of violating security rules by raiding a Kabul office building last Friday and killing two Afghan security guards. The Afghan interior ministry said Sunday NATO troops ignored a 2008 agreement that put Afghan authorities in charge of security operations in the capital.

NATO says coalition troops raided the building in coordination with Afghan security forces, in response to a "credible threat" to attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. It says intelligence indicated two vehicles loaded with explosives were parked there.

NATO says coalition troops came under fire while searching the building and shot back, killing two gunmen and detaining a third.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary described the incident as "tragic." He said authorities have suspended an Afghan police general who cooperated with NATO forces in the raid.    

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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