Pakistan will soon raid militant hideouts, easing US concerns
WASHINGTON / KABUL
Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan. Pakistani forces will soon launch operations against the Taliban, says US Defense Secretary Panetta. AP photoPakistan has told U.S. military officials that it plans to launch combat operations against Taliban militants soon in a tribal area near the Afghan border that serves as a haven for leaders of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani network, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Aug. 13.
Speaking to The Associated Press in his Pentagon office, Panetta said Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, discussed the planned operation in recent conversations with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. The U.S. has long been frustrated by Islamabad’s refusal to target Afghan Taliban militants and their allies using Pakistani territory to stage attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target groups with which it has strong historical ties and that could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
Panetta said he did not know when the Pakistani operation would start, but he said he understands it will be in the “near future,” and that the main target will be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network.
Panetta welcomed Kayani’s initiative, even though the main target may not be the Haqqani leadership. “They’ve talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I’d lost hope that they were going do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step,” said Panetta. In June, the secretary of defense had warned Pakistan that the U.S. was losing patience with Pakistan’s refusal to eliminate safe havens in its territory.
Clash with Afghanistan
As Pakistan promised to launch an attack on insurgents, authorities in Afghanistan said yesterday that one of their border posts had come under a shelling attack from Pakistan, prompting Afghans to return fire in a clash that lasted for more than two hours, according to Agence France-Presse. The incident, which reportedly caused no casualties, comes amid growing border tension between the neighbors, with Kabul alleging that Pakistani security forces have fired hundreds of rounds into Afghanistan in recent months. Pakistan has also denied reports that a delegation of Afghan officials met with a former deputy leader of the Taliban who is imprisoned in Pakistan.
His arrest reportedly angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai because Baradar had been in secret talks with the Afghan government. The former Taliban deputy is seen as a potentially important player in the process of striking a peace deal in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said reports of a meeting between Afghan officials and Baradar were “absolutely baseless and ill motivated.”
Self-governments next year
Local self-governments will be introduced within the coming year in tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has announced.
“The coming year will be the year of the beginning of self-governance in the tribal areas in accordance with their wishes and their customs and traditions,” he said. The president said the areas in question would be in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), according to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website. FATA has been embroiled in conflict during the past decade, and parts of the region are controlled by extremists allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.