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Pakistan Adds Fence on Its West

October 23, 2003|From Reuters

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A military spokesman said Wednesday that Pakistan had started fencing parts of its western border with Afghanistan to stop cross-border movement of Al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas.

New searchlight towers and checkpoints also were being set up along the Afghan border in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said.

"We are erecting the security fence as part of our counterterrorism efforts," he said. "We are taking these measures to stop illegal cross-border movements."

He did not say how long the fence would be. The Baluchistan border accounts for about half of the 1,520-mile frontier.

The move comes after growing calls from U.S. and Afghan officials for Pakistan to take steps to stem the flow of militants to and from Afghan territory.

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, has deployed thousands of troops along its Afghan frontier, but Afghan officials accuse it of being halfhearted in combating Taliban militants, whose regime in Afghanistan had Pakistani backing until the Sept. 11 attacks.

Since early August, Afghanistan has been hit by its worst wave of guerrilla violence since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, and Afghan and U.S. officials say many of the militant fighters have crossed from Pakistan, mainly from Baluchistan.

Pakistan says it has been doing its best to prevent guerrillas from crossing the border and that it has arrested more than 500 Taliban and Al Qaeda militants since the war on terrorism began.

But it has said it lacks the resources to properly patrol its western border and called on the United States to provide more support.

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