WASHINGTON Afghanistan wants to set up a joint military force that would have the power to operate on both sides of the border with Pakistan, where militants have found safe haven.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said Monday that he has proposed creating a joint force to include coalition forces operating on Afghan territory and Pakistanis operating on their side.
"A terrorist does not recognize any boundaries," Wardak said. "So to fight them I think we have to eventually come up with some arrangement together with our neighbor, Pakistan that we should have a combined and joint task force of coalition, Afghan and Pakistanis to be able to operate on both sides of the borders regardless of which side."
"It should be based on the type of intelligence which we receive," he told Pentagon reporters as he visited the memorial to victims of Sept. 11 attacks launched on the U.S. when al-Qaida was operating from Afghanistan.
He said he recommended the joint force to the U.S. some time ago and that the idea was discussed about a month and a half ago at one of the regular meetings of a tripartite commission of U.S., Pakistan and Afghan officials.
"They said they are looking at it," Wardak said of Islamabad.
In Pakistan, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the army, said no formal proposal for a multinational cross-border force has been received by the army and that he was unaware of any discussion of the idea within the tripartite commission.
Coalition deaths this year are at a record for the seven-year-old conflict.
The U.S. says al-Qaida has re-established safe havens in Pakistan after being routed from Afghanistan by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking in Los Angeles, said he was encouraged that "a leader in Afghanistan has spoken out with this kind of idea."
Mullen's comments Monday followed reports that Pakistani troops and tribesmen opened fire on two U.S. helicopters that crossed into the country from neighboring Afghanistan.
Mullen denied the reports. "I've received no information that such an incident happened," he said.
Meanwhile, an Afghan journalist detained for 11 months at the U.S. military base at Bagram alleged on Monday that his captors kicked him, forced him to stand barefoot in the snow and didn't allow him to sleep for days.
Jawed Ahmad, who worked primarily for CTV, a Canadian television network, was handed over to Afghan authorities Sunday, said Capt. Christian Patterson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.
The U.S. designated him an "enemy combatant" this year and had accused him of having contact with Taliban leaders, including possessing their telephone numbers and video footage of them, according to a complaint filed by Ahmad's lawyers in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.
Patterson said Ahmad, who is also known as Jojo Yazemi, was released because he was no longer considered a threat.