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US Envoy Confident Pakistan Will Target Militants Along Afghan Border

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (file photo)
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter (file photo)

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Ayaz Gul

Washington's ambassador to Pakistan says the United States is confident Pakistan will launch an anti-insurgency offensive in its border region of North Waziristan identified as the epicenter of global terrorism, despite strains on Pakistan's armed forces.

U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, says the United States has been talking closely with the Pakistani military about launching an offensive in North Waziristan.

The United States believes the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban has established bases in North Waziristan and its fighters are involved in deadly attacks on coalition forces fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Afghan Situation - Related Pictures

The U.S. ambassador acknowledged that Pakistani security forces have made significant counter-terrorism efforts within the past two years but he emphasized that dealing with the militant safe havens in the Waziristan district is crucial for efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

"We see these people [militants] as our common enemy but we understand that the decision has to be made by the leadership of the Pakistani military," Munter said. "Even though this sounds like a contradiction, it is not. We would like them to move tomorrow, we would like them to take out these people tomorrow. But we understand they are telling us honestly about the capacity of their military and when they are able, we are convinced they will move in."

Pakistan has long resisted U.S. pressure to mobilize forces against these militants, saying it needs to consolidate military gains in other tribal districts along the Afghan border before it can open a front in the Waziristan region.

But ambassador Munter says his country understands Pakistan's current limitations and is working closely with its leaders to enhance the counter-insurgency capacity of the country.

"I think, there is, yes, a great amount of capacity being used in holding the ground that the Pakistani army has won at great cost," he added. "And in that sense I think it would be incorrect to define the question about North Waziristan as a question simply of will rather than capacity. I think it is wrong. I think there is a capacity issue."

The U.S. ambassador spoke to reporters a day after the Obama administration made public its annual review of the of the troop surge strategy in Afghanistan. The summary of the review says coalition forces have made "notable operation gains" in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have dismissed the U.S. review as "propaganda designed to create baseless hope".

The U.S. review of its strategy says progress against insurgents has not come fast enough on the Pakistani side of the border.

But Pakistani Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has dismissed the criticism his country is not doing enough to fight extremists.

"If you see the statistics in terms of the casualties and injuries, it is Pakistan which has suffered the most in the world," said Malik. "We have done a lot. We are suffering in terms of our economy and obviously it is affecting our common man in the country."

Pakistan says that since joining the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in late 2001and moving forces against militants in it border region, extremists have launched relentless suicide and other terrorist attacks across the country killing thousands of people, including a large number of security forces.

Pakistani officials say that the economy has also suffered billions of dollars of losses because the deteriorating security situation has discouraged much needed foreign investments in the country.

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