KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S.-led coalition forces poured into border areas in eastern Afghanistan to prevent insurgents from crossing in from Pakistan to launch attacks, the U.S. military said Saturday.
Operation Unified Resolve began this week in Gosta and nearby districts of Nangarhar province, an area near the Pakistan frontier that has “historically served as an al-Qaida stronghold,” U.S. military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said in an e-mailed statement from Bagram Air Base.
After setting a base this week in Jalalabad, the bulk of the U.S. forces involved on Saturday “conducted an air assault and ground movement in order to rapidly position forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border … to prevent threat elements from crossing the border,” Davis said.
The mission was described as a “cooperative combat and civil affairs operation” that was part humanitarian, part military.
“We’re assessing villages to determine their needs for wells, schools, roads, irrigation systems and medical clinics while simultaneously demonstrating our ability to hinder the enemy’s movement and apply pressure whenever and wherever we choose,” Davis said.
Threats against U.S. forces in Nangarhar were limited to “harassing attacks,” mostly homemade bombs in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, Davis said. Some bombs have also targeted local government officials.
Authorities blame the bomb and rocket attacks on renegade warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, Davis said.
The U.S.-led operation came days after insurgents detonated a bomb and opened fire on a U.S. special operations convoy in near Asadabad in neighboring Kunar province, farther north.
The ambush was the latest in a series of stepped up attacks by insurgents in Afghanistan over the last several months. The insurgents are believed to be a mix of holdouts from the former Taliban regime, fugitive members of the al-Qaida terrorist network and loyalists of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister.
About 11,500 coalition troops, most of them Americans, are in Afghanistan carrying out operations against the guerrillas. The Taliban government was toppled in a U.S.-led war in 2001.