Pakistan might relocate a ‘significant number’ of troops from the lawless tribal areas to man its border towns along Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces to stop the increasing cross-border incursions by al Qaeda-affiliated Taliban, officials have said.
The move is expected to add further complications to Islamabad’s troubled relations with Washington which have, of late, been calling for more deployment in the tribal badlands to combat militants it blamed for attacks on international forces in Afghanistan. A top military official told The Express Tribune on Sunday that authorities had already ordered reinforcing border checkpoints in Chitral and Dir districts after a brazen attack by militants allegedly based in Kunar.
Close to 30 security personnel were killed and some other were missing after approximately 300 armed militants mounted an audacious attack inside Pakistan’s Chitral district on Saturday morning. It was one of several incursions by Taliban from Afghanistan into Pakistan in recent months, forcing Pakistani military authorities to take extra measures to protect areas along the porous and mostly unprotected border.
A huge number of Pakistani Taliban took refuge in Nuristan and Kunar provinces in eastern Afghanistan after they were flushed out from Bajaur tribal district and Swat valley through military operations in 2009. Pakistani officials said that it had also been decided to intensify aerial surveillance of the border to put in place an early warning mechanism in case of militants’ movement from Afghanistan towards Pakistan.
The official, who wished not to be named, added that helicopter gunships and troops will be on standby to react if they were given signals.
When asked, he refused to give the exact number of troops being deployed in Dir and Chitral districts and the areas in tribal regions from where they were being relocated, saying it would be tantamount to revealing ‘operational details’ of a new security policy.
Around 100,000 troops are deployed in the tribal areas to combat Taliban. Though the official did not mention if North Waziristan was among the areas from where troops were being relocated, it might cause more bitterness in Pak-US ties.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2011.