Push launched against Haqqanis in border areas
KABUL (PAN): An operation involving Afghan and NATO-led forces has been launched to purge border areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan of Haqqani network militants, the defence minister announced on Tuesday.
Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told a media briefing in Kabul the offensive had been mounted to counter possible security threats in the border regions. The minister, however, gave no timeframe for the military action against Haqqanis.
The push would help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier, the minister said. Operation "Knife Edge", which began two days ago, would deliver a crushing blow to the fighters, he hoped.
Chief of Army Staff Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi said: "This operation has been launched because the enemy has lately been operating on both sides of the (Afghan-Pakistan) border." Gen. Karimi said the group was creating problems both for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
While making a pitch for more advanced weapons, the chief of army staff said the arms worth billions of dollars that the country had already received were helpful in fighting the guerrillas. However, he explained, without heavy weapons, the country could not deal with incursions from neighbours.
Wardak said a full-fledged national security force, including army and police, would account for about $5 billion a year after the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014. "At the present level of the security environment we are facing, it will be about $5 billion a year."
He said the government's objective was to raise a force that was not heavily dependent on outside assistance. However, he made clear cash-strapped Afghanistan would count on international help, mainly on aid from the United States, in maintaining the force.
In response to a query, the defence minister denied contradictions between his and President Hamid Karzai's statement on recent rocket strikes into Afghanistan from Pakistan soil. "There is no inconsistency, whatsoever, in our statements."
About contacts with Pakistani officials, the minister said: "They have told us the rockets may have been fired inadvertently into Afghan areas during operations against the militants…"