Villagers in the Federally Administred Tribal Areas’ (FATA) North Waziristan Agency are in the panic today over what they term a massive build-up of US and NATO forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
According to the residents, NATO troops including tanks, APCs and helicopter gunships have been setting up camps and checkpoints on the Afghan side of the border. Villagers have also reported seeing warplanes and helicopters flying overhead. Pakistani military officials confirmed having received reports about the build-up but were advising the tribesmen not to worry as international forces often establish a massive presence in a concentrated area for a short period then move on.
North Waziristan has been a target for US drone strikes in recent weeks, though less commonly so than neighboring South Waziristan. There has also been concern that the military offensive, so far limited to South Waziristan, will eventually spread into the north, though the military has denied this.
Last week US Admiral Michael Mullen ruled out sending ground forces into FATA, insisting “we don’t go into sovereign countries.” Yet with US forces still struggling with the aftermath of its invasion of not one, but two sovereign countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, the promise will likely carry little weight with the scared tribesmen.