Pakistan is welcoming a U.S. military offer to take action against militants involved in cross-border raids against Pakistan from Afghan soil. Pakistani officials say the move "augurs well" for regional counterterrorism cooperation.
General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Monday his offer was meant to discourage Pakistan's army from shooting at civilians across the Afghan border while responding to border raids by militants.
“We have also offered if they [Pakistan] have a concern about anything on this side of the Durand Line [the border] to let us know and we will act against it so that it is not necessary for cross-border shelling to occur,” said the U.S. general.
Pakistani forces last week allegedly fired hundreds of rounds of mortar shells for several days into the Afghan border province of Kunar, forcing Afghan villagers to flee their homes in harsh winter weather, according to Afghan officials.
The cross-border firing was provoked by repeated militant raids that claimed the lives of several border security personnel and wounded many more, according to Pakistani officials.
The chief spokesman for Pakistan's army, Major General Asif Ghafoor, while responding to Nicholson's remarks, told VOA his country has always offered and sought cooperation to strengthen border security.
“Unilaterally Pakistan, having cleared all areas on Pakistan side, has restored writ if [the] state, including steps like enhancing [troop] presence along the border [with Afghanistan], establishing new forts and posts and has also started to fence the border to deny freedom of movement to illegal crossers and terrorists.” Ghafoor explained.
General Nicholson also emphasized the need for improving border coordination to address mutual concerns.
"I think the concern now is that we improve the mechanisms for control along the Durand Line so that we may have mechanisms to consult before people start shooting and not after innocent people have been displaced," the general observed.
Mushahid Hussain, who heads the defense affairs committee of the Pakistani Senate, said Nicholson’s remarks are an acknowledgment of Islamabad’s “valid and justifiable” concerns regarding security management of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
“The U.S. promise, at long last, to address these core concerns augurs well not just for Pakistan-Afghanistan border management but also for Pakistan-U.S. counter-terror cooperation,” said Hussain.
Pakistani forces previously have also been accused of hitting civilian areas on the Afghan side, provoking street and official protests in Kabul.
Officials in Pakistan maintain anti-state fugitive militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban are using sanctuaries in Afghan border areas for plotting cross-border terrorist attacks, taking advantage of the nearly 2,600 kilometer, largely porous border between the two countries.
The Afghan government has for years alleged leaders of the Taliban are sheltering and using havens on Pakistani soil to sustain and expand insurgent activities in Afghanistan. U.S. officials back those allegations.
Islamabad denies the accusations, saying its counterterrorism operations have uprooted all terrorist infrastructures in the country, allowing Pakistani forces to strengthen border security.