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Nato plans push in eastern Afghanistan to quell Pakistan-based insurgents

Posted by The Agonist on December 2nd, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Julian Borger | UK | December 2

Guardian – Nato commanders are planning a substantial offensive in eastern Afghanistan aimed at insurgent groups based in Pakistan, involving an escalation of aerial attacks on insurgent sanctuaries, and have not ruled out cross-border raids with ground troops.

The aim of the offensive over the next two years is to reduce the threat represented by Pakistan-based groups loyal to insurgent leaders like the Haqqani clan, Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Nato hopes to reduce the level of attacks in the eastern provinces clustered around Kabul to the point where they could be contained by Afghan security forces after transition in 2014.

The move is likely to add to the already tense atmosphere following the recent border post attack by Nato helicopters that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. On Thursday, Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, ordered his troops to return fire if they came under attack again by its ally.

While drawing down forces in Helmand and Kandahar, the US will step up its presence in eastern provinces bordering Pakistan, bringing the long-festering issue of insurgent sanctuaries in the Pakistani tribal areas to a head. The message being given to the Pakistani military is that if it cannot or will not eliminate the havens, US forces will attempt the job themselves.

Western officials had been encouraged by the fact that a blitz of drone strikes against commanders loyal to insurgent leaders Jalaluddin and his son Sirajuddin in Miran Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, and against forces loyal to Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan, had produced few civilian casualties and no reaction from the Pakistanis. Consequently, an increase in cross-border raids by special forces – and even the withdrawal of the Pakistani army to create a free-fire zone – have not been excluded.

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