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Pakistan Forms New Anti-Terror Force - 2003-08-20


Pakistan is forming a new anti-terrorism force with the help of the U.S. government. The Pakistani war on terror is reaping unexpected benefits in the country's tribal region.

Pakistan's alliance with the United States in the fight against global terror networks is close to two years old.

The cooperation between the two countries is being stepped up a notch, with Pakistani officials saying a new elite anti-terrorism unit is in the works.

Few details have been released, but officials say the new investigative group is being trained with U.S. assistance and will help track down suspected terrorists hiding in Pakistan. The first team is to include at least 40 officers.

Pakistan has recently made a number of high-profile arrests of alleged top-ranking members of the militant al-Qaida network.

The Pakistani army also has increased its presence in the semi-autonomous tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan, where al-Qaida members are said to be seeking refuge. The tribal areas are also said to host forces loyal to the former Taleban regime conducting attacks in Afghanistan.

Major-General Shaukat Sultan Khan said the Pakistan army's new deployment in the region has improved relations with the leaders of the country's seven tribal agencies. This is due, he said, to infrastructure and other development that the army has brought to the impoverished region. "Basically, the improvement of their living standard that is now happening probably wasn't possible in the past, so those people are actually happy," he said.

Pakistan says it has arrested about 500 al-Qaida and Taleban suspects since the start of its collaboration with the United States, after the terror attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.