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Battle for North Waziristan

world Updated: Apr 30, 2010 23:43 IST
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The Pakistani military, long reluctant to heed American urging that it attack Pakistani militant groups in their main base in North Waziristan, is coming around to the idea that it must do so, in its own interests.

Western officials have long believed that North Waziristan is the single most important haven for militants with Al Qaeda and the Taliban fighting American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has nurtured militant groups in the area for years in order to exert influence beyond its borders.

The developing shift in thinking — described in recent interviews with Western diplomats and Pakistani security officials — represents a significant change for Pakistan’s military, which has moved against Taliban militants who attack the Pakistani state, but largely left those fighting in Afghanistan alone.

That distinction is becoming harder to maintain, Pakistani and Western officials say, as the area becomes an alphabet soup of dangerous militant groups that have joined forces to extend their reach deeper inside Pakistan.

The consensus is gathering against a background of improved US-Pakistan relations. The Obama administration’s efforts with Pakistan are beginning to bear fruit, officials said, while the countries’ armies have begun working together more closely, particularly since Pakistan stepped up its military efforts, according to a Pentagon report to Congress released this week.

Even so, any operation in North Waziristan by Pakistan’s badly stretched military would still be months away, Pakistani and Western officials said. And even if it is undertaken, the offensive may not completely sever Pakistan’s relationship with the militants, like Sirajuddin Haqqani, who serve its interests in Afghanistan.

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