KALPANI BASE, Pakistan (AP) -- The wind was howling and the snow outside their bullet-pocked bunker lay knee-deep as the men of the 20th Lancer armored regiment bedded down for the night, nearly 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) up a mountain on one of the world's most inhospitable borders.
Pakistan has lost more than 3,000 soldiers in battles with Taliban since it deployed soldiers to its western border, more than all the foreign deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. Although it sees India to its east as its biggest military challenge, it regards its Afghan flank to the west as critical enough to warrant stationing 130,000 soldiers there.
The base called Kalpani is on the front line in the 10-year war against militant Islamists, a war that allies Pakistan with the U.S. and NATO in an uneasy, distrustful partnership. Pakistan feels scapegoated for the coalition's failures in Afghanistan. At the same time it is accused of playing a double game, fighting the militants it chooses to fight while giving others haven and logistical support for their actions in Afghanistan.
Last month the army took an unprecedented step, allowing an Associated Press writer and photographer to follow Pakistani troops on their front-line rounds for a glimpse inside its fight against militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.