RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
As U.S. troops fight in Afghanistan, U.S. officials are pressing Pakistan for more help in containing militants who strike across the border.
MORNING EDITION's Steve Inskeep spoke with a Pakistani general who's being urged to clear out one strategically important zone: North Waziristan.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The general's name is Asif Yasin Malik. He welcomed us into his headquarters in Peshawar, near Afghanistan's border. His country is not getting along with the U.S. very well right now, but the general is happy to say that he once studied in Washington, D.C.
General ASIF YASIN MALIK (Commander, Eleventh Corps): 2002, 2003.
INSKEEP: Well, then you know my city very well then.
Gen. MALIK: Oh, pretty well. Pretty well, yes. I won't tell you how well.
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INSKEEP: Pakistan has deployed 140,000 troops to fight militants in the border regions. But the general knows some Americans are suspicious; suspicious that Pakistan still wants to maintain ties with some insurgents.
Americans are impatient for Pakistan to strike the Haqqani Network, a militant organization named after its leaders. It's suspected of kidnapping journalists, bombing a hotel in Kabul, and attacking the Indian Embassy there. This especially violent group finds sanctuary in the tribal zone called North Waziristan.
Why can't you go there? What is preventing you from clearing out North Waziristan?
Gen. MALIK: First of all, I think this is a misnomer, that why can't we go there. We are already there. I have five brigades over there.
INSKEEP: Five brigades, 35,000 troops or so?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: I have five brigades deployed there - it means about 20,000, 25,000 troops. And let me say this, about the size of the entire regional command, east, on the other side.
INSKEEP: About the Americans on the other side of the border?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: Yes, about the same size, you know? And to say that there are no operations going on in North Waziristan - I am losing lives, I am killing insurgents and terrorists, so therefore there are active operations as we speak even now.
The issue is of cross-border movement. I think that is to be understood. So this crossing is - has always been there, for centuries, you know? Now imagine a person who is not carrying a weapon. He just walks across the border. How would you or anybody know that he's a terrorist? He goes behind a bush and picks up a Kalashnikov and he becomes a terrorist. And to add to it, Kalashnikov is part of the body here. It is the third arm of the people, you know, as you say.
So it's a very difficult thing to control the cross-border movement. We have suggested a number of ideas to the Iran government and to the coalition. We have suggested mining, we have suggested fencing, we have suggested biometrically controlled crossing points. All have been denied by the Afghan government.
INSKEEP: So you're saying, the Americans and their Afghan allies could do more on their side to settle this war.
Lt. Gen. MALIK: Definitely. I have about one-thousand-some posts from north to south, up to Balochistan.
INSKEEP: Border posts that are manned?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: Yes, about 1,083 or something like that. And how many would be on the other side? 113.
INSKEEP: Regarding North Waziristan, you said that you have 20,000 to 25,000 troops there now, that they are engaging in some operations against insurgents. But are they specifically targeting the Haqqani network that is of such concern to the U.S.?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: We don't specifically target anybody. You see, there's no such thing as a good terrorist and a bad terrorist. Anybody who challenges the writ of the state, or who's working against the interest of Pakistan, we target them.
INSKEEP: So are the Haqqanis challenging the writ of Pakistan?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: Sometimes they must be.
INSKEEP: And when I ask this, I mean, you're correct if you see a man with a gun on the street who's committing an act, he's a terrorist; but there's the matter of who you hunt for.
Lt. Gen. MALIK: Um-hum.
INSKEEP: Because you're a hunter, I'm sure. Are you hunting for the Haqqani network?
Lt. Gen. MALIK: I said I don't give names to the terrorists, you know. I don't differentiate. My issue is, I ask questions later, I shoot first, you know. So all sorts of people, we target them very, very, you know, indiscriminate, if I may say so. So we don't ask questions whether you are Haqqani or not Haqqani. I, as a military commander, let me assure you, I have no orders to spare anybody, and I don't spare anybody.
INSKEEP: General Asif Yasin Malik commands Pakistan's 11th Corps. You notice he never quite said he was or was not targeting the Haqqani network. If that's a murky answer, it's a murky situation. The U.S. military speaks highly of General Malik, whose troops have coordinated with the U.S. on many missions. But when reporters asked, last week, if General Malik planned a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan soon, he said no.
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MONTAGNE: Our colleague Steve Inskeep reporting from Pakistan. He will be back with us later this week.
You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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