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US Welcomes Pakistani Offensive, Calls for Sustained Effort

The U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday welcomed Pakistan's offensive against the Taliban and other groups near Islamabad, but says the real test will be whether the effort is sustained and actually defeats the militants.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that after months of calling for more decisive Pakistani action against the militants, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top officials are "clearly pleased" with the offensive.

"We think that the military operations that are underway in Buner and Dir Districts are exactly the appropriate response to offensive operations by the Taliban and other militants over the past few weeks," said Geoff Morrell. "We are very much encouraging of those efforts and stand ready to help them in any which way that we could."

Morrell declined to provide details of what type of additional aid the United States would provide Pakistan. But he said Pakistani reluctance to accept American help has limited the amount of aid in the past.

Still, while welcoming the Pakistani move, Morrell said the key is to sustain the effort to defeat the militants.

"We are hopeful that it can be sustained and we are ready to help them do so, if they are amenable to that," he said. "But all these operations are ultimately judged not just how effective they may be in the short term, but how effective they are in ultimately stemming this tide from the Taliban. They are clearly on the offensive right now in Buner and Dir. And our hope, obviously, is those operations can be sustained and ultimately the Taliban can be defeated."

The Pentagon press secretary noted that the United States is working on a new aid package for Pakistan, specifically to increase the counterinsurgency capability of the Pakistani military and other government agencies. It would involve not only military equipment and training, but also a program to increase the understanding among Pakistani government employees of the need to provide services and be responsive to ordinary people's needs in order to reduce the likelihood that they will support the militants.