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US Wants Pakistan to Do More Than Deploy Troops at Afghan Border


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.

U.S. 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 make sure the Afghan border is as secure as possible."

Pentagon press 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.

Morrell 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" agreements.

"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 into Afghanistan.