US, Afghanistan have failed to intercept militants fleeing border: senior official

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US-led international forces and their Afghan allies have failed to intercept Taliban and other militants fleeing across the border from the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan, a Pakistani official said on Thursday.

According to the Washington Post, a senior Pakistani official, who is in Washington for talks with the Obama Administration and spoke on the condition of anonymity, pleaded with the forces on the Afghan side to “not permit these people to disappear.”

“Take them out. Eliminate them. There should be a hammer and anvil,” the official said, adding, however, that the “Pakistan hammer saw no evidence of the anvil on the other side.”

The official’s remarks come as US forces have withdrawn from positions near the border in eastern Afghanistan and Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan are still solidifying their positions there.

Refuting speculation that the Haqqani network will be immune to the ongoing offensive, the official assured that all militants will be eliminated.

“How can you carry out a military operation that is costing the lives of hundreds of soldiers and officers, and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars, and for us to let any one particular group… escape?” he said. “Everyone has to be taken out.”

“If there are any militants that are found fleeing into Afghanistan, we would love to see them taken out by ISAF (the US-led international force) and Afghan forces, said the official.

Due to the operation, which began a month ago with extensive airstrikes and is continuing with about 150,000 ground troops, thousands of civilians have been evacuated from the region.

US and Pakistani officials agree that relations between them have improved since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took charge last year.

According to the Post, Pakistan launched the offensive, encouraged by the US, after Sharif tried and failed to conduct peace negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban.

The US defense budget includes nearly $1 billion in aid to Pakistan, most of it designated for development and economic assistance.

While Pakistan seeks no additional funds for its military operations, the official said, it would like more intelligence sharing to aid in counterterrorism operations.

Furthermore, the official opposed the drone strikes that resumed again in June, following a six-month hiatus.

“Drone strikes should take place on the other side” of the border, he said. “We want to make it very clear. We are never informed as to when they are taking place, where they are taking place, and who is the target for the simple reason that we have made it clear both privately as well as publicly our opposition.”

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