Porous Afghanistan Border Keeps Taliban Alive

Porous Afghanistan Border Keeps Taliban Alive
April 17th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Porous Afghanistan Border Keeps Taliban Alive

Porous Afghanistan Border Keeps Taliban Alive
Houston Chronicle
April 16, 2007
Officials blame Pakistan for failing to stop fighters from crossing
By Denis D. Gray, Associated Press
DAVUDZAY, AFGHANISTAN Troops with powerful rifle scopes scanned mountain ridges for elusive, black-clad Taliban infiltrators. Afghan soldiers, hit by a roadside bomb, pressed on into the valley. U.S. Special Forces swept through the sinister alleys of its main settlement.
The strike, carried out by about 200 American and Afghan government forces, was supposed to sever a major insurgent infiltration and supply route from neighboring Pakistan to Islamic fighters deep in Afghanistan.
But the attack didn't work an object lesson in why 47,000 U.S. and NATO forces are struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban movement.
Field officers say eradicating fighters who cross the porous 1,470-mile border is like trying to drain a swamp when one cannot shut off the streams feeding it. Pakistan's failure to dam those streams has deepened the five-year-old conflict, they say.
"Stopping the infiltration is not the only way we are going to win this war, but it's a very key factor," said Capt. Samuel Edwards, who led U.S. Army troops in a recent drive into the Davudzay mountain bowl in the southeastern province of Zabul.
Echoes of Vietnam
The Zabul routes are just a fragment of a vast cross-border network, reminiscent of the Ho Chi Minh Trail of jungle tracks and secret roads that carried Vietnamese communist troops and equipment to battle.
Pakistan is now under greater pressure to act particularly after the U.S. military last fall reported a threefold increase in cross-border attacks into eastern Afghanistan.
When the snows melt in the spring, men, weapons and supplies begin moving in small groups, often along mountain ridges, on donkeys and motorcycles, he says.
Those already in Zabul blend in with villagers during the winter in places like the Davudzay bowl.
Pakistan maintains the insurgency is primarily an Afghan problem, fueled by domestic frustration over poverty and dissatisfaction with the Afghan government. It says it has deployed 80,000 soldiers to stop Taliban supporters crossing from Pakistan to fight far more troops than marshaled by Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO on the other side.
"We are trying to ensure that the support the Taliban have here does not go across," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad. "Movement across the border has reduced by a great extent."
Also, some Taliban leaders have been arrested, and Pakistan has started building a fence along 177 miles of frontier.
Little change noticed
NATO spokesman Col. Tom Collins in Kabul said Pakistan had "done pretty well," particularly against al-Qaida. He said that sealing the border was virtually impossible, although coordination was improving among Pakistani, Afghan and NATO forces.
U.S. officers on the ground in Zabul see little change. And Afghan officials say elements in Pakistan's powerful ISI intelligence agency flagrantly support the Taliban.
Pakistan strongly denies these charges. But nonetheless, Taliban fighters are coming through.
Above Tangay Kalay, the machine guns of Staff Sgt. Leon Baudoux's squad were trained on the hamlet below and the mountain pass sloping southward into the Davudzay bowl.
As the 12-hour operation proceeded past sheer rock faces and cascades of boulders, no insurgents popped up.
Interpreters monitoring insurgents' radio transmissions could hear them warning each other of the Americans' approach.

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