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NATO Forces in Afghanistan Return Fire Towards Pakistani Tribal Region


NATO forces in Afghanistan say they have fired on militant positions inside Pakistan after coming under rocket attack. The border region has experienced a surge in violence in recent months, raising tensions among Afghan, U.S. and Pakistani officials over who is to blame. In an interview with VOA's Barry Newhouse in Rawalpindi, Pakistan's Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says he would welcome more NATO forces patrolling the Afghan side of the border.

A NATO statement says troops in Afghanistan's Paktika province received multiple rocket attacks from militants inside Pakistan, and responded with artillery and attack helicopters.

The incident took place near Pakistan's Waziristan region, a Taliban stronghold where locals have reported seeing more NATO troops along the border in recent days.

The troop movements have raised alarm within Pakistan and caused politicians to issue stern warnings against NATO incursions across the border. But Pakistan Army Spokesman Athar Abbas tells VOA that the troop movements are not what he called an "ominous buildup."

"The information from the other side was that this is a routine relief and rotation of the troops," said Athar Abbas. "They are replacing the units on the border and they are reinforcing some parts where they have received attacks from militants."

A NATO spokesman told VOA there is no abnormal buildup of troops in the region, but acknowledged increased activity because of the time of year and recent developments in the area.

Pakistan's army says it has around 60,000 security forces manning 1,000 posts along the 2,600-kilometer Afghan border. It says in Afghanistan, there are about 100 such security posts.

General Abbas says NATO forces have indicated they want to create more security posts along the border - a move he said the Pakistani military would welcome. But he insisted that NATO forces will not be allowed to operate in Pakistani territory.

Military analyst Talat Masood says that despite the growing power of pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan and the continuing inability of the civilian government to address the problem, the presence of foreign troops would make the situation more dangerous.

"The worst thing that would happen is that Pakistanis will start disowning this war and will start sympathizing more with the militants than the Americans or NATO," said Talat Masood.

Retired General Masood says the militancy problem must ultimately be addressed by Pakistan's own military and government. But he says the government has been unable to come up with a policy that is supported by the people.