Kabul wants Pakistan to withdraw forces

Afghanistan warned Pakistan on Tuesday it would use military force if Islamabad's troops did not withdraw from the border area between the two countries where skirmishes were ongoing.

    MMA warned the border skirmishes
    could destabilise the country

    Afghanistan's Deputy Interior Minister, Hilal al-Din Hilal, told our correspondent in Kabul he hoped Pakistani troops would withdraw from the Mohmand tribal area to avoid an escalation of fighting.

    Pakistan’s Islamic parties also denounced the military operation as “dangerous”, saying it could destabilise the entire tribal region of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). 

    Our correspondent said Islamabad was under pressure to end the military operation from Pakistan’s Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Islamic Alliance that rules the NWFP and Afghan tribesmen.

    “Any uprising against operations jointly sponsored by the Americans could spread to the entire tribal belt which will weaken the country’s stability to defend its eastern border with India,” said a leader of MMA, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad.

    Clashes

    Clashes erupted for a third day between Afghan tribesmen and Pakistani troops near the border as the US-backed Pakistanis continued a crackdown on what they said was an influx of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members.

    There were exchanges of fire northwest of the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and the Mohmand area near the Afghan-Pakistan border on Tuesday, our correspondent said.

    Pakistani military officials said a soldier was killed and another   injured in the fighting.

    Afghan government forces said they had secured almost all passes to block entry of anyone trying to leave Afghanistan.

    Last weekend US forces in Afghanistan launched “Operation Unified Resolve” aimed at stopping suspected fighters from crossing into Pakistan. 

    About 2,000 Pakistani troops and tribal militias were mobilised at the Mohmand border, while around 500 US and Afghan troops were on the Afghan side to block routes which they say are used by fighters to launch attacks.

    Afghan tribesmen accused Pakistan’s forces of trying to capture the town of Khousa Khalil near the border. They said the forces had seized the Anarki Candow area, which had been under Afghan control.

    Taliban resistance council

    The Taliban leader's whereabouts
    are unknown

    Meanwhile, Taliban leader Mullah Omar has named a 10-man council to organise resistance attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani news report on Tuesday.

    A Taliban spokesman said Mullah Omar announced the formation of the body in an audio tape sent from his hiding place, according to The News newspaper.

    In the tape, Mullah Omar called on the Taliban to drive out US and other foreign troops and what he described as "the puppet government" of US-backed President Hamid Karzai.

    Washington does not know the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, despite more than a year and a half of operations across Afghanistan.

    The paper said the council included former Taliban Defence Minister Obaid Allah and military commanders like Mullah Dad Allah and Akhtar Mohammad Usami.

    Officials of the Taliban, driven from power by US-led forces in 2001, could not be reached for comment.

    There are about 11,500 foreign troops under US command who say they are searching for alleged remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan.


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