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Terrorism & Security

NATO steps up Taliban attacks along Pakistan-Afghanistan border

Increased strikes are causing friction between the US and Pakistani government, which prefers to negotiate with the militants

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The latest NATO strike to occur on Afghan soil on Tuesday also implicates Pakistan. The strike, which occurred in the eastern province of Paktia, near the border with Pakistan, killed 15 militants, allegedly including Pakistani nationals, reports Agence France-Presse.

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Insurgents opened fire on the headquarters of the province's Sayed Karam district but were driven away after a gunbattle which caused slight damage to the building, provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samoon said.
"NATO helicopters then bombed the militants and killed 14 militants on the spot. Our policemen arrested another four wounded, and one of the wounded also died in hospital," Samoon told AFP....
"The three arrested terrorists have told police that most of the 15 Taliban killed in the air strike were Pakistani nationals and some of them from Arab countries," he said.

The New York Times adds that NATO is increasingly concerned about the Taliban's ability to use Pakistan as a staging ground for attacks.

American and Afghan officials say the surging violence in Afghanistan is in large part caused by the sanctuaries that militants enjoy in Pakistan. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have assembled in Pakistan, most of them in the area along the remote and mountainous frontier where the government exercises no authority.

NATO's controversial attacks come as Pakistan's new government, since taking office in February, has struggled to negotiate a series of peace deals with the Taliban rather than fight them.

An opinion piece in the Pakistani daily The News suggests that local observers now worry that the US administration and Pakistan's new government no longer agree on the best approach for tackling Taliban presence in the region.

The cracks in the relationship are beginning to show, now more than ever. It is becoming increasingly apparent that America and Pakistan are failing to see eye to eye on many critical strategic matters on how to conduct this war.
While Pakistan is increasingly proffering reasons to choose dialogue over military operation in dealing with the militants, America, with its fetish for warfare, seems to have stepped up its military operations, to the point where it matters little if in the process it is overriding the sovereignty of its most important ally, or even killing its people.

Observers from afar are also counseling Washington to allow Pakistan's new government to steer its own course in tackling militancy. An editorial this week in Lebanon's leading English language daily, The Daily Star, admonishes:

It is critical for the US to recognize that the priority of the Pakistani government should be to first bring peace and stability within its own borders. If the new leadership is seen to place the interests of the United States before its own, it will experience the same legitimacy problems President Pervez Musharraf faced. This will undermine Pakistan's democratic transition, creating instability in the country and the region.
If negotiations fail because of militant uprisings, Pakistanis will support the use of force knowing all other channels were exhausted. This will lead to greater public ownership of the fight against extremism, something the United States has called for.

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