NATO troops claimed to have killed 150 ill-equipped and ill-trained insurgent recruits sent to fight by Jalaluddin Haqqani whom senior US officials lives in Pakistan even as there is a surge of Taliban fighters crossing the border to fight coalition troops. A Taliban spokesperson denied that these were fighters and claimed that those killed were civilians. He however did not explain how there was a large amount of weapons and military supplies among the dead bodies.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley said that Haqqani “operating from inside Pakistan” recruited and sent 130 unemployed and untrained men to fight in Afghanistan. NATO sources say that this is the largest battle event since the Taliban was ousted from Afghanistan in 2001. Western and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Taliban fighters using Pakistani soil as a training ground from crossing the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan says it does all it can to stop the fighters. Islamabad claims that it is doing all it can do stem the flow and violence.
Disagreeing with Musharraf’s protestations, new US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visiting Afghanistan said that the US must engage Islamabad to curb an increasing flow of Taliban fighters across the border into southern and eastern Afghanistan and hinted that US troop levels may be increased beyond the 24,000 in the region. Faulting one of Musharraf’s “out of the box” solutions making peace with the Pakistani Taliban for the increased incursions, Gates said that “The border area is a problem” because “More attacks” are from “across the border” and that they have origins in “al Qaida networks operating across the border.” He rejected Pakistani claims that the September deal was assisting coalition efforts in Afghanistan.
Topmost US Army official Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry grimly predicted that it will be a “violent spring” and that he sees no prospect of reducing troop levels in 2007 and anticipates an increase in force levels. In a clear indication of being overstretched militarily, Eikenberry revealed that he has proposed to his bosses not to move out the infantry 10th Mountain Division out of Afghanistan to troublesome Iraq since the Taliban attacks surged 200% in December and since the peace deal in September, the attacks in the border had grown by 300%. American sources were cited in newswires citing statistics that suicide attacks in 2006 was at 139, up from 27 in 2005, and the number of attacks with roadside bombs more than doubled, from 783 in 2005 to 1,677 last year. The number of "direct attacks" by insurgents using small arms, grenades and other weapons surged from 1,558 in 2005 to 4,542 in 2006. Further, Army officials say that the insurgents were now launching more sophisticated and coordinated attacks.
Almost 4000 people, mostly terrorists, have been killed in 2006 but Human Rights Watch warned that about 1000 civilians also died in the fighting. Western and Afghan officials accuse Pakistani military personnel at border posts to look the other way when they notice Taliban ex-filtration into Afghanistan and cite at least one instance when they asked the Pakistanis to stop the infiltration and they ignored the request. They say fault the peace deal in which Islamabad essentially conceded defeat and agreed to reparations-like measures.
U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said that despite Pakistan's vital role in the war on terrorism, leaders of both al-Qaida and Afghanistan Taliban militia are being sheltered in its lawless frontier areas and largely beyond reach of U.S. or Pakistani fighters. Testifying before the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Negroponte had asserted that while "eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists” in “Pakistan's tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it is necessary” but also expressed fear about Pakistan being a “major source of Islamic extremism."
Islamabad vigorously protests such accusations and refuses to accept any blame claiming that it is doing all it can. After incessant complaints from Afghan leaders, the Musharraf government proposed fencing and mining the 2500 kilometer frontier. This proposal drew sharp rebuke from Kabul demanding that Musharraf address the root cause of terrorism and not apply band-aid solutions. There were also protests from communities along the border and the United Nations and Canada have also expressed concern over the proposal. It also aggressively challenged the Negroponte testimony saying that it has no information nor has it been informed by anyone about the presence of al Qaeda within its borders.
Interestingly, in a sharp rejection of its protestations, the bodies of 25 insurgents killed in the fighting with coalition forces were repatriated back to their village in the tribal areas. Taliban operatives encouraged a strong attendance for the their mass funeral.
As if to show that they were doing their work, the Pakistani Army destroyed a suspected al Qaeda hideout in South Waziristan, close to North Waziristan, using its planes and claimed to have killed 10 terrorists including some foreigners. Residents say that those killed were Afghan laborers employed by a tribal elder to cut wood and not terrorists. Some 600 tribesmen protested in Tank blocking the main road and burning tires for 2 hours.