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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Pakistan steps up al-Qaeda search
border at Chaman
The Afghan-Pakistan border is often easy to cross
Pakistan has sent more than 1,000 troops near Afghanistan's borders as it steps up its search for suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban militants.

The move comes shortly after US press reports said that Washington was not pleased with Pakistan's efforts in the region.

General Franks
General Franks is happy with Islamabad's co-operation
General Tommy Franks, the head of US operations in Afghanistan, dismissed these claims saying "President Musharraf and his government have been exceedingly co-operative".

This is the first time in more than 50 years that such a large number of Pakistani troops have gone into a semi-autonomous tribal region, where the writ of the federal authorities has not been accepted since the British colonial days.

Tribal law

US military officials believe many suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban members may have slipped across Afghanistan's porous border to Pakistan.


Do we have work that we must do in that border area in the near future? Yes, we do

General Franks

The Taleban's ultra strict interpretation of Islam found fertile recruiting grounds among the conservative Pashtun tribes living in the area.

During a visit to US troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday, General Franks said that operations in the tribal areas of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan must continue.

"Do we have work that we must do in that border area in the near future? Yes, we do," said General Franks.

Complaints

Washington considers President Musharraf's continuing co-operation - first pledged days after the 11 September attacks - crucial to the anti-terrorism battle.

Pakistani soldier in the border region
Pakistan has sent more troops to the border region
But US officials have allegedly complained that they would like to see the Pakistani military undertake more forceful actions in the tribal border region.

Some US personnel are working with Pakistani troops there, but they say it is frustrating not to be able to send a larger conventional force into the area.

General Franks was quick to dismiss the complaints, saying he was pleased with the level of cooperation he had received from President Musharraf.

Tribal protests

As military operations increase in the tribal region, the authorities have banned the display of weapons in public, following a series of protest demonstrations by armed tribesmen and a few incidents in which rockets were fired.

Officials say the protest started after reports circulated that some American troops were also involved in the military operation.

The officials insist that the search and arrest operation is only being carried out by the Pakistani forces, but admit that the military is still facing resistance from the highly conservative tribesmen when they carry out house-to-house searchs.

The BBC's correspondent Zaffar Abbas says that though tensions are still running high in the tribal region, military officials are determined to continue with the search operation for as long as it takes.

See also:

17 May 02 | South Asia
Musharraf confirms US troops in action
12 May 02 | South Asia
Pakistan steps up security measures
11 May 02 | South Asia
Pakistan rocket attack on US troops
14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tribal frontiers
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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