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Partial pullout from western border

December 27, 2008

TIMERGARA / TANK: The government began pulling out some troops from the western border in the wake of rising tensions with India.

According to sources, army units were seen leaving their positions in Timergara and Tank. Troops left the brigade headquarters in Timergara, their administrative office in Lower Dir which had been set up before the launching of operation ‘Sherdil’ in Bajaur.

A senior military official confirmed what he called ‘limited’ withdrawal from the western border, but said that troops engaged in operation against militants in the troubled areas of tribal region and Swat would not be pulled back.

“Troops are being pulled out from areas where operation has not been undertaken,” the official said, adding that the operation in Swat, Bajaur and other troubled areas would continue.

According to sources, militants have welcomed the beginning of troops’ withdrawal from tribal areas.

Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban, told Dawn that his militia would not do anything to provide an excuse to the army to return to the region.

Talking on phone from an unspecified place he said: “It is our (Taliban’s) responsibility to protect the country’s western border and we will stop infiltrations into Afghanistan.”

He said the Taliban had already reduced their activities against security forces and would not launch any fresh attack.

Maulvi Omar claimed that back-channel negotiations with the government were under way in Swat, Bajaur, Darra Adamkhel and Mohmand tribal region and said he was hopeful of a positive outcome.

Inter Services Public Relations’ director-general was not available for comments on the withdrawal of troops.