- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops on Afghanistan’s eastern frontier have seen a tripling of attacks since a truce between the Pakistani army and pro-Taliban tribesmen that was supposed to stop cross-border raids by militants, a U.S. military officer said yesterday.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry rejected the U.S. assertion and said home-based insurgents were behind the violence in Afghanistan, where at least 25 militants were reported killed in fighting yesterday.

Raising further questions about the cease-fire, a Pakistani political leader maintained that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar approved the deal. A government official denied that.

The developments came amid a public feud between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who had dinner last night with President Bush at the White House.

The U.S. officer said the cease-fire that began June 25, cemented by the signing of a peace accord Sept. 5, contributed to the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. He said ethnic Pashtun insurgents are no longer fighting Pakistani troops and are using Pakistan’s North Waziristan border area as a command-and-control hub for attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistani tribal elders brokered the truce between Gen. Musharraf’s government and militants, which ended years of unrest in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

But the agreement appears to have bolstered Taliban infiltrators, with the number of attacks in eastern Afghan provinces rising threefold since July 31, said the U.S. officer, who agreed to discuss the situation only if not quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“That’s why they had the chance to rest and refit, because they were in a sanctuary,” he said, referring to a surge in Taliban attacks over the past several months but without giving specific numbers for incidents before or after the truce.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry rejected that view, insisting Afghan insurgents get no help from inside Pakistan.

“We don’t agree with this. These are just excuses,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said. “Whatever is happening, it is deep inside Afghanistan and is not because of Pakistan.”

Pakistan turned over several Taliban fighters to the Afghan government after the accord, Mrs. Aslam said.

The U.S. officer acknowledged that the truce, championed by Gen. Musharraf, is not the only factor behind Taliban attacks in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika, Khost and Paktia provinces.

The Army’s 10th Mountain Division has been pressing its own offensive, Operation Mountain Fury, sparking firefights and bombings that otherwise might not have occurred, the officer said.

Meanwhile, Latif Afridi, a top official in Pakistan’s Awami National Party, said he received a letter containing Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s approval of the North Waziristan peace deal.

He said the letter also claimed that Pakistani militants who back the Taliban in North Waziristan would fall under the command of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a front-line Taliban commander.

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