General rules out Waziristan offensive

A top Pakistani commander said Wednesday the army intends to start operations against militants in a strategic tribal region that juts deep into Afghanistan, part of a rolling campaign to elimate insurgents on its side of the border.

MAMAD GAT, Pakistan — A top Pakistani commander said Wednesday the army intends to start operations against militants in a strategic tribal region that juts deep into Afghanistan, part of a rolling campaign to elimate insurgents on its side of the border.

But Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik said the force had no immediate plan to attack the neighbouring militant haven of North Waziristan, an al-Qaida stronghold from where many of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan are organized and launched.

The United States has been pressing Pakistan’s army to move into the region, which — unlike others close to the frontier — has not seen offensives over the last four years. By not going into North Waziristan, however, the military is sending a message that runs counter to expectations that the U.S. has gained fresh leverage after killing Osama bin Laden deep inside the country.

Malik briefed reporters who were by the army to Mohmand, close to the Afghanistan border. The trip was intended to showcase army success against militants in that region. The area and six other frontier regions are normally closed to journalists.

Commanders said Mohmand was now 80 per cent cleared of insurgents after an operation that began in January. Operations were continuing in areas close to the frontier, and the briefing room was shaken several times as artillery shells were launched from the base.

Malik, who oversees military operations in the tribal areas and other parts of the northwest bordering Afghanistan, said he met last month with religious and community leaders in the Kurram agency who asked for a military operation against militants.

Kurram has seen violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims for years, and is also home to insurgents.

According to some accounts, the Haqqani network, a faction of the Agfghan Taliban, was shifting fighters there from North Waziristan to give them a new route to stage attacks in Afghanistan. Violence has continued despite a recent peace deal between the two sects, and Malik said unrest was being formented by outside militants who benefited from the instability.

“There is some trouble brewing up in Kurram,” said Malik. “We intend to sort them out.”

He said operations would be launched there with the government’s backing, but declined to give any more operational details.

Militant groups based in the northwest have launched hundreds of attacks inside Pakistan in recent years, and the army has moved aggressively to retake areas from them. But, to the annoyance of the United States, Pakistan has not aggressively persued militants that focus on Afghanistan, not Pakistani forces.

North Waziristan is now seen as the main militant sanctuary in the northwest. As well as the Haqqani network, it is also home to al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban fighters. The United States regularly strikes targets there with drone-fired missiles.

Bin Laden’s killing in an army town led to accusations that Pakistan security forces were either hiding him or were incompetent. Since the raid, Washington has been increasing pressure on Islamabad to take more action against extremists.

An offensive in North Waziristan would undoubtedly earn Islamabad much needed goodwill in Washington. This week a local newspaper reported that the army had decided to launch an offensive. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about the report and said it was an encouraging sign.

But Malik dismissed the reports as “media hype” and insisted the army’s posture was unchanged.

“There is no change in North Waziristan in past months and weeks,” Malik said. “We will undertake an operation when we want to, when it’s in the national interest.”

Deploying the same arguments used by the army for the past 18 months, he said the force was too busy carrying out operations elsewhere in the northwest to take on North Waziristan. He didn’t rule it out, however, saying “maybe ultimately we go to North Waziristan, why not?”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay MANDATORY CREDIT
Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Most Read