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40 Militants Killed In Southeast Afghanistan --> U.S. military vehicles in Afghanistan (file photo) (epa) June 16, 2006 -- A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan says coalition forces have killed 40 suspected militants in the southeastern province of Paktika since June 14.

Leiutenant Colonel Paul Fitzpatrick said the militants were killed by combined ground and air assaults near the border with Pakistan. The attacks are part of a massive anti-Taliban offensive that was launched across southern Afghanistan last month.

Some 11,000 U.S., NATO, and Afghan soldiers are involved in the offensive, which has been code-named Operation Mountain Thrust. It is the largest military offensive in Afghanistan since late 2001. Hundreds of suspected Taliban fighters have been killed.

The operation comes as the coalition prepares to hand over control of security operations in southern Afghanistan to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Helmand Province Governor Comments

U.S. Marines operating in Helmand Province in 2002 (epa)

RULING A RESTIVE LAND: On February 12, RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Jawaid Wafa spoke briefly with Helmand Province Governor MOHAMMAD DAOUD about the ongoing violence in his restive region on the border with Pakistan.

RFE/RL: Recently, there have been many clashes and attacks by insurgents in Helmand Province. What in your view facilitates these attacks, especially in Helmand?

Mohammad Daoud: This province has a 160-kilometer border with Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. In reality, armed people, armed terrorists, from the other side of the border cross the border into Helmand. They carry out attacks and return back. It is a serious problem in Helmand that within our borders there is neither tribal good will, nor are there are special military or security measures to prevent enemies from crossing back and forth.

RFE/RL: The attacks and clashes have not only been between government forces and insurgents. There have been various clashes in different parts of Helmand between police and purported drug smugglers. How do you explain this?

Daoud: Drug smugglers also use the border for their own purposes. They have opened markets on the border and process opium there. This is a serious problem along our border. We are in touch with our authorities on this problem.

RFE/RL: There are government border police patrol your border. What is their role in preventing illegal crossings?

Daoud: Along this 160-kilometer border, there are car routes, walking routes. We have border police, but unfortunately, either because of their own problems or because of weak administration, they have not been able to stop the crossing.


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