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Pakistan upping border force along Helmand stretch
Pakistan's army has deployed more troops to a stretch of the Afghan border to stop Taliban militants fleeing a major U.S./Afghan offensive in the Helmand province.
CA Online and wire services
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's army has deployed more troops to a stretch of the Afghan border to stop Taliban militants fleeing a major U.S./Afghan offensive in the Helmand province. Residents have expressed concern that the U.S. troop buildup in southern Afghanistan could push the militants across the poorly guarded and mountainous border into Pakistan.
"We've mustered more troops from the other areas of the border" to deploy opposite the Helmand region, Maj Gen Athar Abbas told the Associated Press July 3. "We expected that the effect of this operation would be more pressure on the border. We are redeploying from where there is less pressure on the border.”
Abbas declined to provide information on how many troops were being sent to bolster those already along that stretch of the border, or exactly how much of the move was coordinated with the U.S.
He added, "It started months ago. [The U.S.] indicated that troops would come to Helmand and the eastern part of Afghanistan. The threat was visualised. The possibility of insurgents wanting to cross our border was visualised, and we have addressed it by beefing up the border posts."
Pakistan shares a 2,600 kilometre border with Afghanistan. The section opposite Helmand is around 260 kilometres long and lies in Baluchistan province where U.S. officials believe the Afghan Taliban's top leadership is hiding out.
Last year, NATO and Pakistani forces cooperated in a series of complementary operations on the border between Afghanistan's Kunar province and the Bajur region in Pakistan.
Abbas said Pakistan has 1,100 posts along the whole border, with some 60,000 military and paramilitary troops deployed there.