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Senior US Military Commander Praises Pakistani Anti-Terrorist Moves

A top U.S. military commander says Pakistan is taking, what he terms, promising moves to deny terrorists sanctuary in the remote area along its border with Afghanistan.

Army Lieutenant General David Barno, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, says Pakistan is making "great progress" in its so-called tribal areas along the border.

Speaking from Afghanistan by satellite with reporters at the Pentagon, the general says that in recent weeks Pakistani security forces have been undertaking operations to uncover and disrupt the al-Qaida terrorist group in the frontier region.

He called the effort "encouraging" and says it holds the "greatest promise" of ensuring the terrorists are driven out.

General Barno said he is engaged in regular talks with Pakistani security authorities and indicates joint anti-terrorist operations may take place soon. "As we work with the Pakistani military, we are moving in the direction of cooperative operations on both sides of the border. A hammer and anvil approach if you will, where al-Qaida may be driven from the Pakistani side and we are ready to receive them on the Afghan side, use our forces in concert with Afghan forces on this side of the border to be able to crush the al-Qaida elements between the Pakistani and the coalition forces," he said.

General Barno says the presence of Pakistani forces in the tribal areas - the first in the country's history - has enabled them to hold tribal elders accountable for terrorist activities in the region. He says those who do not cooperate are punished with house demolitions and other measures.

General Barno calls Pakistan's presence in the border area a major step forward. He says U.S. officials are watching developments with great interest and what he terms "some cautious optimism" that it will have a positive impact.

The U.S. commander declines to elaborate on joint operations with Pakistan along the frontier that may be in the offing .

But recent news reports have said U.S. forces in Afghanistan are preparing for an offensive against the al-Qaida and the Taleban within the next four months.