Pakistan cracking down on tribal sheiks

Feb. 17, 2004 at 3:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The Pakistani military is cracking down on the tribal sheiks along the border with Afghanistan who are harboring the Al Qaida terrorist network.

Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commands U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, said Tuesday, "The Pakistani conventional military had never gone into the tribal areas in the history of Pakistan until this last year."

"So they are confronting the tribal elders and making them be accountable for the behavior in their area," he said. "That's a traditional approach that has not been used till now in that particular part of Pakistan."

Tribal sheiks who do not comply could face "destruction of homes and things of that nature in some of the reports I've seen," Barno said.

The lawless and largely Pashtun region of Pakistan is suspected of being the new operating base for al-Qaida, which, along with Taliban forces and fighters associated with renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, continue to mount attacks against the Afghan government and people.

Barno took command four months ago and has instituted monthly coordinating meetings with the Pakistani military. Two other subcommittees meet monthly to coordinate border and intelligence issues.

"I've seen some very positive developments from Pakistan, and I'm going to continue to encourage them to do more in those areas," he said.

Barno said the Pakistani military is carrying out all operations on their side of the border, but as they drive out al-Qaida, U.S. and Afghan forces are waiting on the other side, an approach he likened to a "hammer and anvil."

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