RAWALPINDI/PARACHINAR: The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and Afghan forces have mounted a military offensive against the Taliban and their affiliates in eastern Afghanistan opposite the Kurram Agency border, the military said, amid reports that two days of aerial strikes have inflicted heavy losses on terrorists.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that because of the enhanced coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan and timely sharing of details about the operation, the Pakistan Army is vigilant on its side of the border.
The statement came as reports emerged on Tuesday that the death toll from aerial strikes in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has risen to 31 in two days. The military confirmed there was no violation of Pakistan’s airspace.
“Military operation[s] are being conducted in Khost and Paktia… opposite the Kurram Agency of Pakistan, the ISPR said. “During last 24 hours a number of air engagements have taken place in those areas inside Afghanistan with reports of heavy losses to terrorists.”
The military’s media wing said that following the recent visit to Afghanistan by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa coordination between the forces of the two neighbouring countries had enhanced.
“RSM timely shared details about the said operation within Afghan territory. There has been no air violation along Pak-Afghan border in that area nor [was there] any drone strike in Kurram Agency as being misreported by few,” the ISPR added.
“Based on timely sharing, Pak Army is ‘vigilant as anvil’ on [its] own side along Pak-Afg[hanistan] border,” it said. “Better security coordination will take both countries towards enduring peace and stability defeating the common enemy.”
In a separate statement, the ISPR quoted Gen Qamar as saying: “Through coordination and cooperation, both countries shall defeat the common enemy for enduring peace and stability in the region.”
Gen Bajwa, according to the ISPR, strongly condemned a terrorist attack in Paktia and expressed grief over the loss of innocent precious lives and injuries. “Afghans are our brave brothers fighting against terrorism with great resolve,” he added.
The eastern Afghan provinces of Khost and Paktia border Kurram Agency where the Pakistan Army last week rescued a Canadian-American couple and their three children from Taliban captivity in a daring operation. On Sunday an FC captain and three soldiers hunting for the kidnappers and their facilitators were martyred in a blast in the Kharlachi area of the agency.
Meanwhile, an aerial strike in the border areas near Kurram on Tuesday, at least five suspected militants were killed, raising the total number of fatalities to 31 in the last 24 hours. At least 26 militants were killed in two previous strikes by US drone and fighter jets a day earlier.
Local sources said in Tuesday’s strike, a ‘drone’ targeted a house in Khushaka, across Kharlachi, firing two missiles. Five suspected militants were killed and one injured in the attack, they added. This brings the number of total fatalities to 31 in three strikes, while 11 others were injured.
Kurram Agency’s Political Agent Baseer Khan Wazir told Reuters all the three attacks took place on the Afghan side. “Twenty people were killed yesterday, mostly from the Afghan Taliban, and 11 more were killed in today’s attacks,” he added.
A Taliban source said 18 members of their affiliate Haqqani network, were killed in Monday’s strike and six more in one of Tuesday’s attacks. “There were some mud-built houses which were being used by the mujahideen (Afghan Taliban fighters),” said a member of the Afghan Taliban.
No prominent militants were in the area when the drones targeted two or three different compounds, he said. But another Taliban source said two commanders were killed in Monday’s attack. Witnesses said they saw plumes of smoke before seeing 20 coffins moved out of the area.
(With additional input from agencies)