U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed concern about the
continuing ease with which insurgents based in Pakistan are able to
cross into Afghanistan, and welcomed the plan the Pakistani government
announced Wednesday to try to change the situation. VOA's Al Pessin
reports from the Pentagon.
Secretary Gates says the increased
insurgent activity in the U.S. sector in Eastern Afghanistan is "a real
concern." He says progress in the area during the last year is at
risk, in part because of the porous border with Pakistan.
Command-East has been a success story. But clearly the ability of the
Taliban and other insurgents to cross that border and not being under
any pressure from the Pakistani side of the border is clearly a
concern. I think that needs to be addressed with the Pakistani
government," he said.
Earlier this week, the new U.S. commander
in Eastern Afghanistan, Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, said attacks
in his area were up 40 percent during the first five months of the
year, compared to the same period last year. He also said the attacks
are more complex, and are sometimes aimed at schools and development
projects, with the apparent goal of discrediting the Afghan government.
Gates acknowledged the problem, and welcomed a statement Wednesday by
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, announcing a new
initiative to get control of the border area.
"In some measure,
the challenges that we're facing in Afghanistan, in RC-South and
RC-East are, as I say, in some measure, a result of the relaxation of
pressure on the Pakistani side of the border. And my hope is that the
prime minister's statement indicates a willingness to reassert that
pressure," he said. RC stands for Regional Command.
Secretary Gates says the United States will pursue the issue with the Pakistani government.