- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Last week’s Pakistani offensive against an Islamist warlord near Peshawar was just an example of what is in store for any extremists who challenge the nation’s new government militarily, Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in an interview Monday.

Several more actions planned for the Afghan border area in the coming days will demonstrate to the world the new government’s commitment to fighting the Taliban and other extremist groups, the ambassador told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“The message [in Saturday’s strike against a Taliban-allied militant group led by Mangal Bagh] is that this is going to happen to anyone who does the same thing,” said Mr. Haqqani, who said government forces would chase down Mr. Bagh in the remote corner of Pakistan’s tribal regions where he has fled.

Mr. Bagh and his force of tribal militants sparked the weekend attack by encroaching into positions around the northwestern city of Peshawar and seeking to impose extreme Islamic practices on the inhabitants. The group was quickly routed by Frontier Corps troops backed with tanks and helicopters, sending Mr. Bagh fleeing for safety.

The envoy, appointed shortly after a new democratic coalition won Pakistan’s February parliamentary elections, added that “there are going to be several actions in the next few days” along the border with Afghanistan that will demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to working with Afghanistan and NATO forces to crush terrorist havens inside the country.

U.S. and Afghan officials have criticized Pakistan’s commitment in the past to hunt down Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, who is thought to have taken refuge in loosely governed tribal areas that straddle the border.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last week that the flow of fighters into Afghanistan remained “clearly a concern.” Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher, who arrived in Islamabad on Monday for three days of talks, told a Senate hearing last week that previous Pakistani agreements to work with local tribal leaders to curb the militants had not worked.

The ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, an ally of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, sparked concern in Washington by appearing to revive a strategy used by President Pervez Musharraf to cut deals with prominent militant leaders and tribal chiefs.

U.S. military leaders and Afghan officials complained that militant cross-border strikes surged after past efforts at compromise.

But Mr. Gilani and Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani on June 25 endorsed another action plan to deal with extremists on the border, a mix of negotiations with some militant leaders and military action against others.

Mr. Haqqani said the new plan would have far greater legitimacy and effectiveness because it had been drafted and approved by a democratically elected government.

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