The Pakistani Army indicated on Thursday that it would not launch any new offensives against extremists in the mountainous region of North Waziristan for at least six months, pushing back against calls by the United States to root out militants staging attacks along the Afghan border.
An Army spokesman described Pakistan’s position as the United States secretary of defence, Robert M. Gates, arrived here for an unannounced two-day visit.
Gates said that he planned to urge top Pakistani military officials to pursue extremist groups along their border, and that ignoring “one part of this cancer” would threaten the entire country’s stability.
But the Army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, told American reporters at the headquarters of the Pakistani Army in the garrison city of Rawalpindi that Pakistan had to contain some of the extremist groups in the wake of offensives against Taliban fighters last year. General Abbas said it would be six months to a year before any new operation began, and said the situation was not as “black and white” as Gates described.
In an opinion article published on Thursday in The News, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily newspaper, Gates sounded a theme similar to his remarks to reporters, saying that Pakistan had to do more to fight the multiple extremist groups.
American officials are increasingly frustrated that while the Pakistanis have launched offensives against the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, they have so far not pursued the Afghan Taliban and another extremist group on their border, the Haqqani network, whose fighters pose a threat to American forces.
“Maintaining a distinction between some violent extremist groups and others is counterproductive,” Gates wrote. “Only by pressuring all of these groups on both sides of the border will Afghanistan and Pakistan be able to rid themselves of this scourge for good.”
The New York Times