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ISAF Spokesman Responds To Departing American General's Criticism Of Pakistan

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U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the NATO commander in charge of Helmand and Nimroz provinces, speaks during an interview on April 29, 2011 (AP Photo/Solomon Moore)
U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the NATO commander in charge of Helmand and Nimroz provinces, speaks during an interview on April 29, 2011 (AP Photo/Solomon Moore)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A spokesman for the international coalition of forces in Afghanistan sought to create some distance on Tuesday from the remarks of a departing American general, who sternly criticized Pakistan for failing to cooperate on border security earlier in the week.

"ISAF is very pleased that talks and negotiations in the tripartite setup between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the international community are back to nearly normal speed, on all levels, from lowest control on the border, up to the level of [force commander] General [John] Allen," the spokesman, German Army Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, told reporters at a weekly press conference at the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. "On the tactical level communication [between the U.S. and Pakistan] has never stopped."

The spokesman's remarks come one day after Maj. Gen. John Toolan, who until last month was the top commander of international forces in Afghanistan's violent southwestern Helmand Province, faulted Pakistan for failing to take any action to stop the flow of drugs and militants across the border.

“I know for a fact that drugs are moving out [of Afghanistan] through Pakistan and lethal aid is coming in on a regular basis,” Toolan said in a speech on Monday at the Atlantic Council, in Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, from my perspective as a tactical commander in Regional Command Southwest, I have had no support" from the Pakistani brigades in the area, he added.

In November, Pakistani officials cut off formal communication with the U.S. military after an errant coalition airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers who were mistaken for militants. On Tuesday, Jacobson suggested that a lack of bilateral coordination may have contributed to the incident, but that "even in the critical months of November and December" some forms of communication never stopped.

Pressed on whether ISAF concurred with Toolan's assessment of "no support" from the Pakistani military, Jacobson replied, "I will not analyze General Toolan's comments. We do have cooperation along the border and had cooperation along the border throughout."

Relations between the US and Pakistan have reached a low point in recent months over the foreign military presence in Afghanistan, and over increasingly vocal American charges that the Pakistanis have helped fuel militant extremism in the region. In a speech last month, General Allen accused Pakistan's intelligence services of having direct links to "a number of" militant groups that have played a role in destabilizing Afghanistan.

Jacobson did say he agreed with Toolan that more assistance from the Pakistanis would be welcome.

"This has been stated very much, over months, about operations in the entire border area, stretching on its entire length, in sometimes very complicated terrain and in the necessity of Afghan security forces, Pakistani security forces, and ISAF pulling on the same string and fighting, at the end, the same enemy," Jacobson said.

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