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Afghanistan: The new ‘great game’

The Guardian: The new ‘great game’ – John D McHugh is embedded with US troops in Afghanistan on the highly porous frontier with Pakistan. In his latest film, he reports on the cross-border raids launched by the Taliban from inside Pakistan, and sees US troops respond with a campaign reminiscent of the 19th-century struggle for power and influence in the region


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Story Transcript

Courtesy: The Guardian

The New "Great Game"

Afghanistan-Pakistan border

US SOLDIER: Well, if you pan out to our east right here, you can see a qalat [building] that has a flag coming off it. That’s one of the border checkpoints for the Pakistan military. Essentially, the border of Pakistan is right on the other side of that building.

VOICEOVER: This is where the real war for Afghanistan is happening, and it’s being staged from across the border, in Pakistan, by the world’s most wanted men, the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

US SOLDIER: So we’re having a lot of cross-border movement, and we always monitor it, because a lot of the times that’s where our attacks are coming from, people who are kind of coming across the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making an attack, and then going back.

VOICE ON A TWO-WAY RADIO: Hey, we’ve got one guy. He’s walking pretty fast towards Pakistan.

VOICEOVER: As an embedded foreign journalist with the American military, I can’t talk about specific US operations, but I can say I have witnessed rockets being fired at the Americans from inside Pakistan. In fact, everything I have seen on the ground here convinces me that the real fight in Afghanistan is going on right here, on the Afghan side of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier, for the Taliban are carrying out daily attacks on US and Afghan forces, and the Pakistan government is doing nothing to stop them. Although neither confirmed nor denied by the US military, it has been reported and is widely believed on the ground that combined US and British special forces are operating across the border.

US SOLDIER: So what we’re doing right now, just so you know, I’m putting a machine-gun team on top of this rock outcropping right here so that you can see down into the village.

VOICEOVER: The Americans sit and wait. They call it a new great game: an echo of the 18th-century struggle for power and influence in this region. Despite what Pakistan says publicly, it is clearly not prepared to take on the Taliban in these tribal areas. And this infuriates the Americans, who know that beyond these mountains lurk al-Qaeda, a fresh wave of Taliban fighters, and the one that everybody is talking about, be they American or Afghan, Baitullah Mehsud.

MR MOBEEN, GOVERNOR OF BERMEL DISTRICT (TRANSLATOR): Well, for example, have you heard the name of Baitullah Mehsud? He’s a big ACM [Anti-coalition militia] leader inside of Pakistan. Who is that man? Do you know him? He is Pakistani. Baitullah Mehsud is Pakistani. Have you ever heard Mullah Nasser name? He is Pakistani. He says, I have 50 ACM names, and just in the one district. All of them are Pakistani.

CAPTAIN MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, CHARLIE COMPANY: It’s a complex, complex situation out here, because you’re dealing with the border region, Waziri tribes all along the border. They have both family on the Afghan side as well as the Pakistan side. So which country do they choose allegiance to? That’s kind of a difficult question.

MOBEEN: Why the world is not sending people to Wana, you know? They will see the truth. They should send to Miramshah, to Wana, to Rasmaht, to Makeen, to Shawal, to Datahel. All of these cities, all of these village are full of ACM. If somebody does not agree, they can check, they can see.

US SOLDIER: The other side of this hill and to our front, there’s a little plateau of flat ground and a couple of qalats. One of the qalats is what the Taliban was using in this area. They’d infil, stay there, I guess plan operations, and then go out into the area and conduct their operations. So we’re putting the OP up there to pretty much shut down that Taliban hotel, and then any kind of routes. They can come through here, get into Afghanistan.

VOICEOVER: Eleven Pakistani soldiers were killed recently on this border, and the tension is rising. The Pakistanis claim that their soldiers were killed by an armed US spy plane, and the Americans are not denying it. Are the Americans running out of patience with Pakistan? In the minds of many prominent Afghan politicians, the Americans have every reason to.

MOBEEN: The Pakistan government is supporting ACM a lot.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy