US troops view Pak Frontier Corps as facilitator of infiltration

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Washington, Apr 4 : Pakistan's Frontier Corps, which mans several border checkpoints, is viewed as nearly an enemy force and an active facilitators of infiltration by US troops fighting in Afghanistan.

"The Frontier Corps might as well be Taliban. They are active facilitators of infiltration," said a US soldier on condition of anonymity.

Last May, after Major Larry J. Bauguess Jr. of the 82nd Airborne Division attended a meeting to ease frictions between Afghan and Pakistani forces in the Pakistani frontier town of Teri Mengel, he was shot dead by a Frontier Corps guard, military officials said.

Captain Chris Hammonds, commander of Attack Company 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, said that a greater frustration, he and other US troops have is that they cannot trust their Pakistani counterparts.

"The Pakistan military is corrupt and lets people come through," the Washington Post quoted Hammonds, as saying.

Pakistani forces reportedly told insurgents the location of his observation post, and when US troops in a firefight call the Pakistani military for help, he said, "they never answer the phone."

Front-line commanders such as Hammonds still grapple with key obstacles -- including unreliable Afghan and Pakistani soldiers, ambivalent villagers, and even disputes over where the true border lies, the Post observed.

Commanders said they need at least 50 percent more US troops and more reconstruction money.

At current levels, they said, it will take at least five years to quell insurgent attacks, which increased nearly 40 percent in eastern Afghanistan last year, including a 22 percent rise in attacks along the border.

"This combat outpost will get attacked within the next week or so, with rockets or small-arms fire," said Hammonds. "They can't stand that we are in this location," he added.

The US outpost, which Hammonds and his forces set up a month ago in an insurgent safe house nicknamed the "Taliban Hotel" -- is part of an effort to stem the flow of fighters moving along routes from Pakistan's North and South Waziristan and other Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

But because of a shortage of US troops, Hammonds's company can stay in the area only for several weeks. He doubts that Afghan and Pakistani soldiers will be able to control the route once he leaves.

"You're in the middle of an ANA mutiny," Hammonds said, referring to the Afghan National Army, as Afghan soldiers from the 203rd Battalion piled into pickup trucks and quit the camp.

"The Afghans left after learning that the operation, originally to last nine days, would continue for weeks. The exodus underscored Hammonds's belief that Afghan army units cannot guard the border because they rotate every three to six months and they lack enough local knowledge. "The key to securing the border is to remove the ANA completely," he added.

Instead, Hammonds favours the Afghan border police, but eastern Paktika now has only 66 percent of its 857 authorised border police officers and, until December, they were led by a corrupt commander who colluded with the Taliban.

US troops face a mixed reception as they offer aid and seek intelligence from local villagers. In the town of Potsmillah, residents spat at Hammonds's soldiers, while in Sra Kunda, they accepted shoes, prayer rugs and offers of a new porch for their mosque.

ANI

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