The Pentagon says just the presence of regular Pakistani army troops in
the country's tribal areas, along the Afghanistan border, helps reduce
the flow of militant fighters in the region, even though the United
States would like the Pakistani troops to engage in more aggressive
operations. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
officials have frequently called on Pakistan to do more to get control
of its tribal region, where al-Qaida and other groups use tribal
alliances and rugged terrain to protect bases for planning and
launching attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan's new
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with Defense Secretary Robert
Gates Tuesday, following meetings at the White House on Monday, where
President Bush spoke of what he called "the need...to make sure the
Afghan border is as secure as possible."
secretary Geoff Morrell says Pakistan is already working on that,
although the United States would like it to do more. "The mere presence
of Pakistani troops in the border region, we have noticed, has helped
on the Afghan side of the border. Even if they are not actively
engaged in aggressive, offensive military operations, the mere presence
of large numbers of Pakistani troops seems to stem the flow, the free
flow, of fighters within the FATA and across the border into
Afghanistan, and that is helpful."
The FATA are the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
also commented on the Pakistani government's efforts to negotiate with
tribal leaders to get them to stop allowing insurgents to operate in
their midst. U.S. officials have criticized past agreements, saying
the tribal leaders took the government's incentives and did not fulfill
their part of the bargain. The Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that
negotiations are "worth pursuing" if they produce "enforceable"
"I don't think we've assessed the negotiations to be
futile. We just are urging the Pakistanis to combine them with
consistent military operations to enforce whatever deals they negotiate
there. But ultimately, as I've said, the words have been encouraging
but the deeds are what ultimately we will measure. And that is what we
continue to work with them on."
Morrell says there has been an
"up tick" in Pakistani military operations in the border area, but he
said it is "obviously not" enough to stem the flow of foreign fighters