(Adds operation against Haqqanis in eighth paragraph, border cooperation in final three.)
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Artillery fire from militants in Pakistan aimed at U.S.-led coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan has surged four-fold in the past year, at times likely in collaboration with Pakistani troops, a U.S. general said.
“We have seen indications where fires have originated from positions that were in close proximity to some Pakistani outposts,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, deputy commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization coalition.
“The collaboration is, at least in some cases, local collaboration with the insurgents, and we talk very bluntly with our Pakistan counterparts about this,” he said.
Scaparrotti, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via video link, said local conscripts in the Pakistan’s Frontier Corps aren’t as well trained as the regular army.
Communication between coalition, Afghan and Pakistani forces at the border have improved in the past month, he said.
U.S.-Pakistan relations worsened after American forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a May raid on a compound in Pakistan without the knowledge or permission of Pakistani authorities. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a U.S. delegation of civilian and military leaders to Pakistan last week in a bid to gain cooperation.
Rockets and Mortars
The fourfold increase in rocket and mortar fire occurred along the border of Afghanistan’s Paktika province, one of the areas where thousands of Afghan and coalition forces last week launched a push against the Haqqani network. The U.S. says the group has links to Pakistan’s intelligence service and has staged multiple attacks on Americans in Afghanistan in recent months, including one targeting the American embassy in Kabul.
The operation had a “significant effect” on the Haqqani group, including capturing or killing more than 200 militants, mid-level leaders or commanders of the guerrillas, Scaparrotti said. In the short time since the operation ended, “enemy activity” has dropped 39 percent, he said, without being specific.
“We know who we took off the battlefield,” he said. “That’s going to really deter their ability to operate, probably for some time, maybe into the winter.”
Cooperation across the border had come to a standstill by the time Scaparrotti returned Afghanistan in July for his second tour in the war zone. He served until last year as head of the coalition’s southeastern regional command.
Border meetings and radio and phone communications have resumed haltingly in the past month, Scaparrotti said. Since then, Pakistani forces have begun to return fire onto the areas in their territory where the volleys originate, some of them within sight of a Pakistani border post, he said.
“That’s a positive indicator here within the past month,” he said. The coalition immediately contacts the Pakistanis with the coordinates of the origination point and also fires back, he said.
--Editors: Steven Komarow, Terry Atlas
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