Kabul: Afghan security forces and their NATO allies have launched a new push against the Al-Qaeda- linked Haqqani network along the troubled Pakistani border, senior defence officials said on Tuesday.

The United States recently accused the Haqqanis of orchestrating a 19-hour siege of the US embassy in Kabul, a September truck bombing on a NATO outpost that wounded 77 Americans and a June attack on Kabul's InterContinental hotel.

US commanders say the network is their most potent enemy in eastern Afghanistan and increasingly capable of launching high-profile attacks in Kabul. It is an Afghan Taliban faction, loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said operation "Knife Edge" was launched two days ago, while a senior Defence Ministry official said it was "largely against the Haqqani network".

Washington last month dramatically escalated pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network, with the then military chief Admiral Mike Mullen accusing Pakistani
intelligence of involvement in the embassy siege.

The allegations caused damaging diplomatic rifts as the West seeks to end the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the operation was tied to the recent spats between Washington and Islamabad, but gave no details about its scale.

A NATO spokesman confirmed only that "enhanced official operations" were ongoing "to reduce the select insurgent network" in the eastern region that borders Pakistan, but offered no operational details for security reasons.

"These networks are directly responsible for recent attacks against the people of Afghanistan and coalition forces," said US Captain Justin Brockhoff.

No officials would pinpoint the precise area of operations along the long and violent border, but the district chief of Gurbuz in Khost province said residents had seen a lot of troop movement.

"Over the past three days people are telling us that every day, after it's dark, dozens of coalition vehicles move towards Ghulam Khan border area," said the district chief, Wali  Shah Hemat.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a weaponry exhibition in Kabul, Wardak said the operation would "deliver a crashing blow to the enemy's capabilities to conduct operations, especially terrorist operations during the winter".

The Afghan Chief of Army Staff, Sher Mohammad Karimi, said: "This operation is launched along the border because the enemy lately operates along the border on both sides. Sometimes on this side and sometimes on the other side."

The Pentagon said on Monday that cross-border attacks emanating from Pakistan against US-led forces in Afghanistan have increased since US troops killed Osama bin Laden near
Islamabad last May.

US soldiers in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province told the New York Times that rocket fire had dramatically increased from Pakistani territory.

There had been at least 102 "close-border" attacks against three US outposts in Paktika since May, compared to 13 during the same period last year, it said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have for months traded accusations of responsibility for deadly attacks across both sides of the border.

Afghanistan is building up its national security forces, including a 193,000-strong army, trained and equipped mostly by the United States, which has around 100,000 troops
in the country fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.

(Agencies)