Militants’ threats cow U.S.-aided Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Despite $2 billion in U.S. military aid for an offensive against militants in North Waziristan, Pakistan claims it’s too risky to launch an operation against Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in the remote tribal region, after having said for years that a lack of resources had delayed the offensive.

Pakistani officials and analysts on the region say there are two reasons for the delay: Pakistani intelligence maintains links with militants in the area, and Islamabad fears the offensive will trigger a backlash of large-scale terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the senior military leader in the region, said recently that Pakistan will consider mounting an anti-Taliban offensive in North Waziristan only when other tribal areas are stabilized, which he said could take six months.

“What we have to do is stabilize the whole area. I have a very large area in my command. … The issue is I need more resources,” he told reporters during a recent visit to the Orakzai agency.

The general is said to be concerned about threats from North Waziristan-based militants.

Pakistani tribal elders hold a jirga, or a grand meeting, in May in Mandi Bakka Kheil, near Bannu, Pakistan, to review the situation after Pakistan's government announced its intention to extend operations against the Taliban and militants in the North Waziristan tribal area. (Associated Press)

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Pakistani tribal elders hold a jirga, or a grand meeting, in May ... more >

North Waziristan is a key staging area for the al Qaeda-affiliated Haqqani Network, the Pakistani Taliban group known as the Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, and al Qaeda, in addition to smaller Islamist groups.

The U.S. has pushed for several years for Islamabad to launch a major military operation in North Waziristan, particularly aimed against the Haqqani Network, which has been behind deadly attacks on U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network, headed by the anti-Soviet Afghan mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, operates a large network of fighters in the eastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. It is based in the Danda Darpa Khel area near the border with Khost, the ancestral home of Haqqanis.

According to knowledgeable Pakistani sources, the Haqqani Network receives support from elements within Pakistani intelligence agencies that view the group as a vehicle for promoting Islamabad’s political and strategic interests in war-ravaged Afghanistan after international forces leave.

The Pakistani government previously blamed its reluctance to carry out an offensive in North Waziristan on a lack of resources.

However, the United States pledged to provide $2 billion to Pakistan’s military during the recent strategic dialogue in Washington, and Islamabad indicated that it was ready to initiate the offensive.

The militants in North Waziristan braced for the offensive and sounded a stern warning to the country’s authorities by threatening an “endless war.”

A pamphlet distributed by the Mujahedeen Shura of North Waziristan cited the militants’ “concern” about military action and noted the $2 billion aid package from the United States.

The handbill stated that if the Pakistani army launches an offensive in North Waziristan, local residents will migrate to Afghanistan “where President Hamid Karzai is the ruler.”

“Then an endless war would begin and we would continue our jihad until the end,” the pamphlet stated.

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