NATO said Monday that about 200 Taliban-linked militants had been killed or captured in major military operations along Afghanistan's troubled eastern border with Pakistan.
Hundreds of Afghan troops backed by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been involved in a major offensive announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Islamabad last week.
The crackdown focused on the troubled border with joint forces going after insurgents linked to the hardline Haqqani group.
"As these operations, which were Afghan-led and supported by ISAF, have concluded, we can now say that at least 20 Haqqani-affiliated insurgents have been killed or captured," Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson told reporters.
About 175 non-Haqqani rebels were killed or captured, the ISAF spokesman said, adding that the operations lasted about one week.
He said the operation had been designed to hit the insurgency hard ahead of the winter, when rebels retreat to hideouts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and prepare for the new fighting season the following spring.
"The insurgents will not have a quiet winter," Jacobson said.
Clinton had talked up military action along the border during her visit to the region last week, pushing Pakistan to do more to crack down on the Haqqanis and other Islamist safe havens on its side of the border.
She said a "major military operation" in Afghanistan "has been rounding up and eliminating Haqqani operatives on this side of the border", while also saying international efforts were under way to cut the group's finance flows.
Operation Knife Edge was launched along the wild and porous border area in eastern Afghanistan, while Operation Shamshir was focused around Kabul and provinces south of the capital, and lasted about one week.
Jacobson said rocket attacks from Pakistan had increased over the summer. Rising tit-for-tat allegations of cross-border attacks have flown across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for months.
US commanders say the Haqqanis -- an Afghan faction loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar -- are their most potent enemy in eastern Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies US accusations that elements within Pakistani intelligence support the Haqqani network, accused over recent high-profile attacks.
by Mathieu Rabechault
(c) 2011 AFP
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