Pakistan in knots over idea of Waziristan drive | world | Hindustan Times
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Pakistan in knots over idea of Waziristan drive

world Updated: Aug 18, 2012 02:30 IST
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The Pakistani Taliban's brazen attack on a major air force base near the capital underscores the need for the Pakistani army's planned offensive against the group in its last major sanctuary along the Afghan border.

But the operation in the remote, mountainous North Waziristan tribal area is fraught with danger, both in terms of battling the Taliban and avoiding combat with other militants who are not viewed by the state as a threat because they have focused their attacks on Nato and Afghan forces inside neighbouring Afghanistan.

The US has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to attack this latter group of militants in North Waziristan, especially the so-called Haqqani network. But the offensive is likely to disappoint on that front and is shaping up to be much less dramatic than what Washington has wanted.

The major perceived threat for Islamabad is definitely the Taliban's Pakistani branch, which has waged a bloody insurgency in the country for years that has killed over 30,000.

Asad Munir, a retired army brigadier who served as an intelligence officer in Pakistan's tribal region, said Thursday's attack on a Pakistani air base reinforced the need for an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan.

Pakistan long refused US demands to launch an offensive in North Waziristan, saying its forces were stretched too thin by fighting in other parts of the tribal region. Many analysts believe Pakistan's stance was also driven by its reluctance to upset the Afghan Haqqani network, because of its historical ties to the group and the possibility that the Haqqanis could be a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. Angering the group could trigger a backlash inside Pakistan.

But North Waziristan - the only part of the tribal region where the army has not carried out an offensive - has become a problem for Pakistan as the Taliban and their allies, including al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, have migrated there to escape fighting elsewhere.