BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan Asserting a right to self-defense, American forces in eastern Afghanistan have launched artillery rounds into Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote U.S. outposts, the commander of U.S. forces in the region said Sunday.
The skirmishes are politically sensitive because Pakistan's government, regarded by the Bush administration as an important ally against Islamic extremists, has denied that it allows U.S. forces to strike inside its territory.
The use of the largely ungoverned Waziristan area of Pakistan as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters has become a greater irritant between Washington and Islamabad since Pakistan put in place a peace agreement there in September that was intended to stop cross-border incursions.
Army Col. John W. Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, said in an interview that rather than halt such incursions, the peace deal has led to a substantial increase.
Pakistani border forces, which had been active in stopping Taliban incursions into Afghanistan as recently as last spring, stopped offensive actions against them once the peace deal took effect, he said.
"That did relax some of the pressure on the enemy," Nicholson said.
Nicholson described the fighting along the border, particularly in Afghanistan's Paktika and Khost provinces, as intense.