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Beneath US-Pakistani tension, a new cooperation

Joint efforts include setting up coordination centers along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Patrol: A US soldier in Afghanistan near Pakistan. The US has tried to target militants across the border, on occasion with Pakistan's help.

Rafiq Maqbool/AP

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Amid stories of missile strikes and firefights between Pakistani and American forces on the Afghan border, Brig. Gen. Mark Milley has his own to tell.

Two weeks ago, insurgents in Pakistan lobbed mortars at US forces in Afghanistan. When the Americans alerted the Pakistani Army, its response was unambiguous. Not only could the US fire back, but Pakistani soldiers acted as spotters.

It is one small example of how Pakistan is starting to cooperate more with the US and Afghanistan in fighting the insurgency in its tribal areas. Attempts to find solutions jointly are being made across a wide spectrum, from the opening of border coordination centers shared by the three nations' armies to talks among tribal leaders.

The shift is born of a growing recognition in the Pakistani Army of the danger of the insurgency, as well as thawing relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There are suspicions to overcome – going back decades, in the case of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The council, or "jirga," of Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders in Islamabad, Pakistan, that ended Tuesday is a sign of strengthening cross-border ties that have long been strained. Yet the US campaign of unilaterally firing missiles at militant targets inside Pakistan is evidence of lingering mistrust.

Still, both regional experts and General Milley, deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Afghanistan, say greater regional cooperation is central to defeating an insurgency that pays little attention toborders.


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