The situation on Afghan-Pakistani border has heated up as US forces attacked a Taliban position inside Pakistan. Meanwhile, reports from North Waziristan indicate US forces are massing across the border in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost, sparking fears of a US ground incursion into Pakistan’s tribal areas.
US soldiers from Task Force Currahee was on the receiving end of “multiple rocket attacks” launched from inside Pakistan on July 15, the International Security Assistance Force reported. After pinpointing the firing location inside Pakistan, responded “with a combination of fires from attack helicopters and artillery into Pakistan.”
US troops coordinated the response with the Pakistani military. “The Pakistani military agreed to assist and search the area if the border firing continued,” ISAF stated.
The rocket attack against US forces in Paktika is the latest in a series of cross-border incidents and Taliban attacks on bases and district centers in eastern Pakistan. On July 10, Taliban mortar and rocket teams attempted to spark a cross-border incident between US and Pakistani forces by launching rockets and mortar at bases on both sides of the border. US forces have returned fire into Pakistan several other times this year.
The Afghan Army and police and the US military have repelled a series of attacks in the border provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Kunar, and Nuristan over the past month. The Taliban are attempting to destabilize the eastern region and overrun Afghan government centers and Coalition bases. Attacks in the east are up by more than 40 percent from last year, according to the US military. More than 250 Taliban fighters have been killed during the clashes. Many of the attacks have originated from Pakistan.
US massing for attack into Pakistan?
Yesterday’s rocket attack comes as Pakistani tribesmen in North Waziristan and Pakistani military sources have stated that US troops are massing across the border in Paktia, Paktika, and Khost, and are preparing to strike inside Pakistan. An estimated 300 to 500 US troops, along with armor and “heavy weaponry” were moved into positions across the border near Camp Tillman.
“They were brought by helicopters,” Akmal Khan, a Pakistani tribesman from Lowara Mandi in North Waziristan told Reuters. They are at the zero point,” Akmal Khan, a resident of Lowara Mandi, told Reuters. Anonymous Pakistani intelligence and security officials told Reuters they fear the US will enter Pakistani territory to take out al Qaeda and Taliban camps, and will spark a wider war with the Pakistani tribes.
Tribesmen in North Waziristan, who shelter powerful Taliban leaders such as the Haqqani family and Gul Bahadar, vowed to defend their territory from any US incursion. “More than three million tribesmen would fight along the Pakistani security forces if foreign troops enter the Tribal Areas,” Malik Afzal Khan told the Daily Times. The tribes also vowed to support the Pakistani Army against any US invasion.
The reports of troop movements have not been confirmed by ISAF or the US military. But the likelihood is US troops are reinforcing established positions and building new ones in the region due to the heavy volume of Taliban attacks over the past several months, and in light of the Taliban and al Qaeda attack that came close to overrunning the forward outpost in Nuristan last weekend. The buildup in eastern Afghanistan comes as Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a surprise visit to Pakistan and expressed concern and frustration over the rise of extremist groups in northwestern Pakistan and the impact on Afghanistan’s security.
Tensions along the ill-defined, rugged border have escalated since the Pakistani government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.