Pakistan to Fence Border of Afghanistan

The Associated Press
Friday, February 2, 2007; 1:19 PM

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf acknowledged Friday that outgunned Pakistani frontier guards have allowed insurgents to cross into Afghanistan but denied the army or intelligence service was actively helping the Taliban.

Musharraf said the army would soon fence parts of the porous border to stop militant infiltration, despite Afghan opposition. Many observers have been skeptical that the plan will prevent many militants from crossing, especially because the proposed fencing would cover only a tiny portion of the rugged frontier.

Musharraf said Pakistan was being made a scapegoat for the bloodiest surge in violence in Afghanistan since the fundamentalist Taliban regime was ousted five years ago for hosting al-Qaida.

"A misperception is being created that the resurgence of Taliban is from Pakistan. This is absolutely wrong. The resurgence of the Taliban is in Afghanistan, but some support goes from Pakistan," Musharraf said at his army office in Rawalpindi.

His defense of Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism _ and his admission of lapses _ follow criticism from U.S. military officials who say cross-border attacks into Afghanistan have risen threefold since Pakistan signed a September peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in its North Waziristan region.

Musharraf said there had been "some incidents" of security forces at isolated border posts "turning a blind eye." He cited an example of two guards, located 500 yards from their section base, being outnumbered by around 20 highly trained and motivated al-Qaida militants.

But he denied any official collusion with militants, saying the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence was staffed by army officers who obey the chain of command.

"There is no question of anyone abetting," Musharraf said.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the situation at the border could reflect divisions within Pakistan's security services.

But while individual Pakistani soldiers may be helping Taliban fighters, "it doesn't in any sense mean there is any coherent Pakistani military involvement," Cordesman said.

The role of the shadowy ISI _ which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to project Pakistan's influence over its western neighbor _ has been the subject of growing international debate.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has directly accused it of fomenting the insurgency and claims the agency is harboring Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

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