Pakistan: thousands flee Bajaur fighting
Pakistani warplanes and helicopters bombed Lowi Sam and other areas of the Bajaur Tribal Agency near the Afghan border Aug. 10, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Witnesses said seven people were killed and dozens of houses were damaged in Lowi Sam and adjacent localities. The air-strikes were said to target homes being used by thelocal Taliban commander Faqir Mohammad. Taliban militants started moving towards Khar, the regional headquarters, where they have dug trenches and seized a section of the main highway. Nine soldiers have been killed over four days of fighting and over 100 militants, authorities said. (Dawn, Pakistan, Aug. 11)
The fighting comes as the top US commander in Afghanistan publicly accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of "some complicity" with the Afghan insurgency. Lt. Gen. David McKiernan told CNN: "Do I believe that the Pakistani government must do more? I absolutely do. Do I believe there has been some complicity on the part of organizations such as the ISI over time in Pakistan, I believe there has been." (AFP, Aug. 9)
President Karzai echoed the claims, telling a press conference at his fortified presidential place, "The ISI involvement with terrorism is not something new"—referring to the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. (DPA, Aug. 10) Recent weeks have seen repeated skirmishes across the Pakistan-India Line of Control in Kashmir.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced a $20 billion plan to nearly double the size of Afghanistan's army to more than 120,000 active-duty troops, and also restructure the military command of American and NATO forces in response to the growing Taliban threat. (NYT, Aug. 8)