Kabul: The Afghan Army and their NATO allies have stepped up their fight against the Haqqani network along the militant-infested Pakistani border, according to a news report attributed to senior defence officials.
Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said that operation “Knife Edge” was launched two days ago, The Nation reported.
Wardak told reporters ahead of a weaponry exhibition in Kabul that the operation would “deliver a crashing blow to the enemy’s capabilities to conduct operations, especially terrorist operations during the winter”.
A senior Afghan defence ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the operation was “largely against the Haqqani network” and was tied to the recent spats between the United States and Pakistan, the report added.
“This operation is launched along the border because the enemy lately operates along the border on both sides. Sometimes on this side and sometimes on the other side,” Afghan Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Sher Mohammad Karimi was quoted as saying.
According to the report, a NATO spokesman confirmed only that ‘enhanced official operations’ were going on, “to reduce the select insurgent network” in the eastern Afghan region that borders Pakistan, but offered no operational details due to security reasons.
Meanwhile, the scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in North Waziristan, where tribal militias- who feared they could be targeted- gathered in Miranshah to coordinate their response.
Local officials in FATA warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested that the build-up was part of a coordinated operation, the report said.
According to Pakistan Army sources, the US had informed Islamabad about the planned build-up and described it as part of a “cordon and search operation”, in which Haqqani Network fighters would be pushed over the Afghan border from North Waziristan and then “encircled, arrested or killed” by American forces lying in wait, it added.