Afghanistan's government said Sunday it recently established a 1,000-strong tribal militia force to tighten security along the mountainous border with Pakistan near where a purported CIA airstrike targeted top al-Qaida lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri. The force was formed a month ago to slow the flow of militants slipping back and forth across the largely unguarded, unmarked frontier between Afghanistan's Kunar province and Pakistan's Bajur area, Kunar Gov. Assadullah Wafa told The Associated Press in an interview.
Speaking in his office in the regional capital Asadabad, near a large U.S. military base that houses hundreds of Marines and special forces commandos, the governor said al-Qaida was believed to run training camps in Bajur.
He said the new force made up of young men from villages in the area would "hopefully make it harder for the militants" to slip across the frontier. Kunar has long been a popular region for al-Qaida and other militants. Its rugged largely inaccessible mountains and high number of caves make it hard for security forces to operate effectively.
Some of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops last year occurred in Kunar. In June, suspected Taliban rebels shot down a helicopter, resulting in the deaths of 16 special forces troops, after killing three American commandos on the ground.
The province's deputy police chief, Sumwal Hasan Farahi, said the militants have support from many local residents, who are mainly Pashtun, the same ethnic group as the Taliban.
Farahi said his forces have launched several operations against the militants together with U.S. troops, but with little success, the AP reported.
Up to 17 people were believed killed in Friday's bombing attack on the Pakistani village of Damadola, just a few kilometers (miles) from the border. Two senior Pakistani security officials have told AP that al-Zawahri was the intended victim and said Pakistan's assessment was that the U.S. acted on incorrect information.