President Barack Obama's national security adviser was holding talks with Pakistani leaders on Thursday expected to focus on Pakistan's military operations against the Taliban in the country's volatile northwest.
Gen James Jones met with Pakistan military chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Wednesday, and was to sit down with the country's senior civilian leaders Thursday to discuss the Obama administration's revamped strategy for the troubled region. Jones arrived in Pakistan from neighboring Afghanistan, and departs for India later on Thursday to wrap up his trip to the region. The visit to Islamabad comes as the Pakistan military gears up for a new offensive in South Waziristan, a rugged mountainous region along Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan where heavily armed tribesmen hold sway and al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding.
The operation comes on the back of the army's offensive to oust the Taliban from another northwestern stronghold in the Swat Valley region.
Washington supports both campaigns, viewing them as a test of nuclear-armed Pakistan's resolve to confront a growing insurgency after years of halfhearted offensives and peace deals with militants. The battle in the tribal region could also help the war in Afghanistan because the area has been used by militants to launch cross-border attacks on US and other troops.
Many Pakistanis support the operations, fed up with the brutality the Taliban displayed in Swat and with the group's increasingly widespread and bloody campaign of bombings that have killed not just security forces, but also civilians and Islamic clerics who denounced the militant violence as against the tenets of Islam.