U.S., Pakistan Continue Cooperation on Afghan Border

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011 — Despite a hic­cup in com­mu­ni­ca­tions between U.S. and Pak­istani mil­i­tary units on the Pak­istan-Afghanistan bor­der fol­low­ing the Osama bin Laden raid, coop­er­a­tion gen­er­al­ly has been good and is get­ting bet­ter, the com­man­der of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force’s Region­al Com­mand East said today.

Army Maj. Gen. John F. Camp­bell, who also com­mands the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, said that after the bin Laden raid, com­mu­ni­ca­tion issues arose “for a day or two” between U.S. and Pak­istani com­man­ders.

But the sit­u­a­tion has recov­ered, the gen­er­al said, not­ing that two days ago, the com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade held a bor­der flag meet­ing with his Pak­istani coun­ter­part.

“Col. Sean Jenk­ins … will tell you that was the best bor­der flag meet­ing he’s had,” Camp­bell told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a video tele­con­fer­ence from Bagram Air­field, Afghanistan. “So we con­tin­ue to see great coop­er­a­tion, at least at the tac­ti­cal lev­el.”

The peo­ple of Afghanistan and Pak­istan are total­ly inter­twined, Camp­bell said, and you can­not think about strat­e­gy in either coun­try sep­a­rate­ly. Camp­bell said he and the division’s sol­diers have been work­ing to improve the work­ing rela­tion­ship with the Pak­istani 11th Corps since they arrived last year.

“I’ve gone to Pak­istan sev­er­al times,” he said, adding that Pak­istani Lt. Gen. Muhammed Asif has come to Afghanistan.

“At the tac­ti­cal oper­a­tional lev­el, that coop­er­a­tion over the last two months is real­ly the best we’ve ever seen it — bat­tal­ion to bat­tal­ion, brigade to brigade, [and at] the bor­der flag meet­ings that we con­duct,” Camp­bell said. “Open­ing those lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion has helped all across the 450-plus miles of bor­der that Region­al Com­mand East shares with Pak­istan.”

A month ago, the coali­tion launched Oper­a­tion Strong Eagle 3 in north­ern Kunar province. “As we con­duct­ed that oper­a­tion, our Pak­istani coun­ter­parts were able to do com­ple­men­tary ops on their side of the bor­der that enhanced, real­ly, what we were able to do with our Afghan coun­ter­parts in Kunar,” Camp­bell said.

The Pak­ista­nis have oper­a­tions in Mohmand province, where U.S. forces were able to return the favor. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates talks of the U.S. and Pak­istani forces act­ing as the ham­mer and anvil, with Tal­iban forces between the two tools.

Camp­bell said he has not spo­ken to his Pak­istani coun­ter­part since U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 1, but he will con­tin­ue to nur­ture the rela­tion­ship, because it is nec­es­sary. Two years ago, he said, Pak­istan had only 30,000 troops in the bor­der region and a Tal­iban revolt brew­ing.

Now, the gen­er­al said, 140,000 Pak­istani troops are on the bor­der. They have tak­en major casu­al­ties, he added, and they are coop­er­at­ing with coali­tion and Afghan forces.

“We val­ue that rela­tion­ship — and not only the coali­tion to the Pak­ista­nis, but also our Afghan coun­ter­parts with the Pak­istani forces — because, in the end, they’ve got to con­tin­ue to work ’shana to shana’ them­selves — shoul­der to shoul­der,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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