Military operation in North Waziristan imminent: US paper

Published February 27, 2014
An official evacuation had yet to begin but tens of thousands of residents had started leaving Fata as they too believed that a military operation was imminent.— File photo
An official evacuation had yet to begin but tens of thousands of residents had started leaving Fata as they too believed that a military operation was imminent.— File photo

WASHINGTON: The Pakistani government is on the verge of launching a major military offensive in North Waziristan, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The Post noted that recent brutal Taliban attacks and the apparent failure of peace talks with the militants forced Pakistan to opt for the operation.

“It could be any day,” a senior Pakistani official told the newspaper, adding that the plans had been shared with senior US officials.

“Planning for the security operation comes as a halt in US drone strikes enters its third month and high-level meetings between security officials in both countries,” noted another US news site, Foreign Policy. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of US Central Command, and CIA Director John Brennan were in Pakistan last week, meeting their counterparts, and Asif Yasin Malik, Pakistan’s defence secretary, is in Washington for security talks.

The Post noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz also had acknowledged that: “Dialogue with the Taliban has derailed, and the writ of the state will be established in the region.”

The official, who shared the information about an imminent military operation in North Waziristan with the Post, said that Pakistan already had 150,000 troops in the tribal region ready to “begin a full-fledged clearing operation.”

He said that an official evacuation had yet to begin but tens of thousands of residents had started leaving Fata as they too believed that a military operation was imminent.

But US officials told the Post they were still not sure if Pakistan would launch the operation.

“We’ll believe it when we see it,” said one US official.

But the newspaper’s Pakistani source said the Pakistanis were going to launch the operation to deal with the growing threat to their state and not for America’s “happiness.”

The Post noted that recent terrorist attacks in the country had created “new political space” for military action.

The senior Pakistani official, who spoke to the Post, however, cautioned that the government had not formally declared the talks a failure and said that “it’s politically important for the government to take this to its logical conclusion.”

The Post noted that US officials had long attributed Pakistan’s reluctance to attack there to ties between its intelligence and Afghan groups as well as Pakistan’s desire to keep its options open in Afghanistan.

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