JALALABAD - An Afghan army commander in the eastern zone on Saturday said they were ready to respond to cross-border attacks from Pakistan if the central government allowed them.

Talking to an Afghan news agency, the 201st Selab Military Corps commander warned they would explore other options if negotiations on the issue failed to yield desired results.

At least 60 Afghan civilians have been killed and hundreds of families displaced as a result of alleged Pakistani shelling of border areas in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces over the past 11 months. Maj Gen Mohammad Zaman said they were awaiting directives from Kabul on how to deal with the problem. “If ordered by higher-ups, my soldiers are capable of not only foiling incursions, but also beating back aggressors.”

They were able to resolve the border spat militarily if diplomatic efforts proved sterile, asserted the general, claiming that the ANA was in a position to conduct independent operations. He reiterated that the Afghan army no longer needed operational support from the NATO-led troops.

In response to a query why some criminals were freed before being tried, the commander acknowledged, “We are witness to this...outlaws are released without being punished.”

Under the law, he explained, military detectives were allowed to keep detainees in custody for 72 hours before handing them over to other institutions. The army was not responsible for the suspects’ release by other state organs, he explained.

Gen Waziri said insurgents, who had lost the ability of face-to-face combat with the soldiers, were stepping up roadside bombings that harmed civilians. These tactics were reflective of Taliban’s weakening, he added.

With regard to their professional requirements, he said, “Right now we are in urgent need of engineering equipment, as well as a strong air force. We have been assured the Afghan air force will be developed soon.”

The commander, whose corps is operating in Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Kapisa and Parwan provinces, urged public support for the army’s efforts to enforce security across the country.