Pakistan launches assaults on militants along Afghan border

Government troops were ambushed by militant groups with ties to the Taliban while patrolling in the Orakzai tribal area in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, according to recent news reports. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed and 16 injured during the ensuing skirmish. 

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Pakistan's military has hit the Orakzai region particularly hard over the past few days, looking to flush insurgent groups holed up in the area. 

On Sunday, Pakistani fighters bombed suspected militant hideouts in the area, reportedly killing 10 Taliban-affiliated fighters, Voice of America reports. 

Tuesday's fighting comes a day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that Pakistan agreed to begin rooting out Taliban and other connected terror groups from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northwest part of the country. 

Panetta said on Monday he didn’t know when the new mission would start but said it would be the “near future,” according to The Associated Press. 

He said the main target would be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani Network.

Most recently, members of the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network launched a cross-border attack against a hotel outside of Kabul in June, which ended with nearly 20 Afghan civilians dead.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, received word of the planned operation when he met recently with Pakistan’s military chief, according to Panetta.

News of the new offensive comes days after U.S. and Pakistani military leaders announced plans for a new joint border security strategy to help curb deadly attacks by Pakistani-based terror groups on American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

That new strategy will target efforts by the Taliban and affiliated terror groups based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border to move men and weapons into either country, a Pentagon official told reporters Aug. 8. 

The issue of border security has consistently been a sore subject for both the United States and Pakistan, particularly as the Pentagon prepares to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan over the next two years. 

Border clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces have produced some of the heaviest fighting since the Obama administration surged more than 20,000 U.S. troops into the southern part of the country in 2009.

Despite ongoing counterterrorism work in the tribal areas, Islamabad continues to refuse to move its troops into the dangerous North Waziristan region. Hakimullah Mehsud, the alleged leader of the Pakistani Taliban, is among several suspected militants reportedly hiding in the area. 

But any effort to crack down on cross-border attacks by Pakistani-based militant groups could be put in jeopardy by increasing clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops. 

Kabul claims an Afghan border guard was killed on Tuesday after Pakistani troops shelled targets in eastern Afghanistan. 

The clash began when Afghan and Pakistani troops began to exchange fire near a border crossing in the Dangam district of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, according to news reports.

At least 83 rockets have landed in the Kunar province of eastern Afganistan, fired from positions inside Pakistan, province spokesman Wasifullah Wasify told the AP.

However, Islamabad claims that units of the Afghan National Army have been carrying out their own attacks against targets inside Pakistan. 

Officials from the Afghan Ministry of Defense have repeatedly denied such claims, stating the Afghan army has not carried out any recent operations in the border region.