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Deaths Highlight Need for Pakistani Cooperation in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2008 – The deaths of nine NATO International Security Assistance Force soldiers in Afghanistan’s Kunar province yesterday highlight the need for cooperation with Pakistan’s military and a tougher Pakistani government stance against extremists, Defense officials said today.

Taliban extremists attacked the soldiers’ outpost near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. ISAF officials in Kabul said nine soldiers were killed and another 15 were wounded before the NATO force drove off the attackers.

The United States has long been concerned about the situation along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. The federally administered tribal area on the Pakistani side of the border has been used by Taliban extremists to regroup and plan attacks on NATO and Afghan National Army bases. Taliban groups also have launched missiles and mortars against NATO and Afghan targets from their sanctuaries in Pakistan, Defense Department officials said.

NATO officials called the situation in Pakistan “dysfunctional.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said NATO and U.S. officials are working with Pakistani army representatives and the government to address the situation inside Pakistan.

“There have been a number of discussions in recent weeks, and I suspect those will continue as we try to address the border region in a comprehensive way,” Whitman said. “It has many facets to it, and we are looking to address it on all of those levels that we can.”

Contrary to news reports, U.S. officials in Afghanistan have not asked for 1,000 more mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, Whitman said. About 800 MRAPs are in Afghanistan, and more than 6,000 are in Iraq. The terrain in much of Afghanistan is not conducive to MRAP operations, Whitman said.

France and Britain have volunteered further forces for the NATO effort in Afghanistan, but ISAF still will be short of combat troops and trainers for the Afghan National Army, ISAF officials said. The NATO force also is short of airlift resources and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

“We continue to work with NATO to fulfill some of those capabilities that are needed and will enhance the ability of the forces there,” Whitman said. “The U.S. commitment is clear. We said we are committed to providing more capability there in 2009.”

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