Pakistani officials have reported fresh fighting in the South Waziristan tribal region, where the military is preparing a new offensive targeting a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban leadership.
Officials said jets firing on suspected militant positions killed at least 14 people earlier Monday, hours after gunmen fired rockets at local army bases. Officials said most of the dead were militants. Witnesses said several women were among those killed. No government casualties were reported.
Days after Pakistan's government opened up a new front targeting the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, officials said they are scaling back the operation in the greater Swat valley.
A military statement said troops are in the final phase of eliminating militants in Swat. The army said forces killed 22 militants in the latest fighting, bringing the total to 1,592 militants killed since operations began.
Reporters have had limited access to the battle zone and have been unable to independently verify the army's claims.
A VOA reporter who recently traveled to nearby Buner district said the security situation there remains fragile, and there is little presence of paramilitary troops or local police.
Analysts said a key test for the government will be whether it can secure and hold on to areas that have been cleared of militants.
Also Monday, Pakistani President Zardari urged the international community to match U.S. aid to Pakistan to help him deliver economic opportunities to his people and defeat extremists. Washington has offered $7.5 billion over five years to stabilize Pakistan's economy.
Mr. Zardari also called on the rest of the world to follow the U.S. lead in helping Pakistan deal with its millions of internally displaced people. He made the appeals in a letter published in The Washington Post.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.