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Terrorism & Security

Emboldened Pakistani militants seize, then abandon, fort on bordernear Afghanistan

The attack is a setback for the Army and is raising concerns ahead of next month's elections.

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The militants took several of the guards hostage and seized weapons and communication equipment from the fort, the Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn reported. The assault began around 9 p.m. Tuesday with rocket and mortar fire and continued during the night, the newspaper reported.

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The fort was manned by the Frontiers Corps, an 80,000-strong paramilitary force recruited from local tribesmen. The US military has announced plans to train and equip these forces as part of a strategy to counter militancy in the semiautonomous tribal region, said The Globe and Mail.

Reuters reports that Navy Adm. William Fallon, head of the US Central Command, said Wednesday that he believed Pakistan was ready for greater US counterinsurgency assistance. But he gave no details of that support, which is politically sensitive in Pakistan, where many strongly oppose the deployment of US troops. Admiral Fallon said he was encouraged by his conversations with Pakistan's new Army chief, Gen. Ashfaz Kayani, who took over in November after President Pervez Musharraf resigned from the post.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates fears inexperienced NATO troops are using inappropriate tactics to contain Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan. In an interview, Mr. Gates said NATO troops weren't properly trained for counterinsurgency operations. His comments follow a recent decision to deploy temporarily 3,200 US Marines in the south in response to rising violence there.

Gates has publicly criticized European allies in the past for failing to send adequate numbers of troops and helicopters to the Afghan mission. But concerns about strategy and tactics are usually contained within military and diplomatic channels.

A US government spokesman said Thursday that Gates' comments were targeted at all NATO members, reports Britian news agency The Press Association. The conciliatory statement came as some European allies reacted angrily to a perceived slur on their troops. A lawmaker called Gates's comments "bloody outrageous" while the Dutch government called in the US ambassador for a clarification.

[Editor's note: The original headline misidentified the location of the Pakistani fort.]

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