The United States may be only too eager to conduct joint operations with Pakistan against the Islamic militants in the tribal areas, but so far the government has resolutely refused the offer.
The temptation to succumb — however unpopular it may be locally — may grow stronger though in coming days as the Pakistan army makes little headway in its battle. The death toll from clashes between the army and Islamic militants touched 100 this week. Fighting continues in the tribal areas with no respite in sight.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that his country was “ready, willing and able” to conduct joint operations with Pakistani troops within Pakistan territory.
Around 34 militants were said to have been killed in Dara Adamkhel on Friday in an operation conducted by security forces against a group which had earlier hijacked four civilian trucks carrying supplies and ammunition.
“A group of six hired civilian trucks, which were carrying stores and supplies, including some ammunition, was intercepted by miscreants at Dara Adam Khel on Thursday and four of these were hijacked,” a statement from the Pakistani Army said.
Heavy shelling was reported from artillery and gunship helicopters in the area while militants claimed to have taken control of the Zarghoonkhel checkpost in Dara Adamkhel. Local journalists said that the entire area had been cordoned off.
After the failure of negotiations by the political administration, the army headed for the village of Akhurwal where they suspect two of the stolen ammunition trucks were unloaded. The military said that the assault was aimed at recovering the trucks and clearing the area of militants.
Hundreds of military and paramilitary troops with the backing of tanks, helicopter gunships and artillery, began targeting militant positions in the mountains.
“The security forces have cleared important heights, and 25 to 30 miscreants have been killed,” the army's chief spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said.
Two soldiers from the paramilitary Frontier Corps also died, and 10 others were injured in the firefight.