ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A top American diplomat says the United States believes Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operation in North Waziristan has pushed the militant Haqqani network out of the country's restive tribal region in the northwest.
U.S. Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan James Dobbins said Tuesday the U.S. will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the offensive.
Dobbins is visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss political and security issues with leaders in both countries.
A day after meeting senior political and military leaders in Islamabad, he told reporters in Kabul that talks revolved around the Pakistani army's anti-militancy operation in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal district.
“The operation in North Waziristan seems to be a quite a massive operation. The army has taken a number of casualties," said Dobbins. "It has inflicted an even larger number of casualties on both domestic and foreign militants in the area, including Afghans. It has seized huge amounts of ammunition of IED-precursor material and bomb-making facilities, particularly in Miranshah.”
Pakistan's army says so far it has killed more than 500 militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and its Uzbek allies. The military claims to have cleared North Waziristan's central town of Miranshah and adjoining areas of militants, and has confirmed the deaths of at least 32 soldiers.
In addition to being a hub of domestic militants, the Waziristan region also has served as a major base for the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which has launched deadly attacks on Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan. The militant network is a close ally of the Afghan Taliban and has alleged links to the Pakistani spy agency [ISI].
Dobbins also responded to concerns the Pakistani military offensive did not directly target the Haqqani network and other fugitive Afghan insurgents.
“As regards to the Haqqani network, we believe that they, like other militants, have in fact been pushed out of North Waziristan, and our concern is whether they would come back or be allowed to operate elsewhere in Pakistan," he said.
"We have been assured by the Pakistani government that they will not be allowed back into North Waziristan and they will not be allowed to operate from elsewhere in Pakistan. And we will, of course, be observing that carefully,” he said.
Dobbins said the military offensive has displaced nearly the entire population of North Waziristan. He noted that the U.S. is providing aid for the internally displaced people and also will assist in reconstruction efforts when the army operation is completed.