No plans for operations in Pakistan, general says
Stars and Stripes
ARLINGTON, Va. — Don’t expect U.S. troops to go inside Pakistan to fight al-Qaida, the general in charge of counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
“We’ve made no plans to use any U.S. forces on [Pakistan’s] side of the border,” said Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of Task Force 82.
Rodriguez’s comments come after media reports that the U.S. military has offered to hit al-Qaida hideouts in Pakistan using artillery and aircraft, but Pakistani officials have turned the offer down.
Also, a recent intelligence estimate found that al-Qaida has regrouped in safe havens in Pakistan and is planning further attacks against the United States.
In the wake of the report, President Bush’s homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, would not rule out using U.S. troops to go after al-Qaida in Pakistan.
“There are no options off the table,” Townsend said on a Sunday news show, adding that the U.S. government “will use any instrument at our disposal” to fight al-Qaida.
But on Wednesday, Rodriguez praised Pakistani efforts to curb al-Qaida and stop foreign fighters from infiltrating from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
“Right now, Pakistan is executing a significant military operation over there along their western border in the federally administrated tribal areas and the northwest province territories,” Rodriguez said.
He also said cross-border attacks from Pakistan to Afghanistan decreased slightly from June to July, largely due Pakistani military operations. Recently, a cease-fire between the Pakistani military and Islamic militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region broke down.
But the number of foreign fighters entering Afghanistan has increased by 50 percent to 60 percent since last year, Rodriguez said.
The foreign fighters mainly come to Afghanistan through Pakistan and come from “multiple areas in the Middle East,” he said.
Rodriguez would not say specifically how many foreign fighters are coming into Afghanistan, but he said foreign fighters only make up about 5 percent of the insurgent groups that coalition troops face.
Also Wednesday, Rodriguez said Iran’s activities in Afghanistan have been mainly political, including providing economic funds, meeting with political leaders and supplying power to Afghanistan.
Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had seen evidence of a “substantial flow of weapons” between Iran and Afghanistan.
“Given the quantities that we’re seeing, it is difficult to believe that it’s associated with smuggling or the drug business or that it’s taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian government,” Gates told reporters at Ramstein Air Base.
But on Wednesday, Rodriguez would not link the Iranian government to weapons found in Afghanistan.
“There has been some military insignificant arms, ammunition and explosives that have been moved through Iran,” Rodriguez said, “but there’s no specific tie to the leadership of the country of Iran in that movement of arms, ammunition and equipment.”