Pakistan on Saturday defended its military policy in the northwest of the country, an alleged hotbed of Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency, amid tensions in its relationship with the United States. In a statement issued by the foreign ministry, Islamabad declared that there was no “lack of Pakistani resolve to fight terrorism”. The comments come as a wave of US drone strikes in the area continues, having killed more than 150 people and raising tensions between Washington and Islamabad, which condemns the operations as a violation of its sovereignty. A leaked White House report to Congress earlier this month also accused Pakistani forces of avoiding “direct conflict” in North Waziristan, while ground operations in South Waziristan were only progressing “slowly”. Militants fighting against more than 150,000 US and Nato troops of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan are believed to be holed up in the tribal region, as are operatives at war with Pakistani security forces. Pakistan last year sent 30,000 troops into South Waziristan to destroy Taliban strongholds in the area, but no similar offensive has been mounted in North Waziristan. But the foreign ministry said in a statement: “While we understand Isaf concerns, any question relating to when, how and what is to be done in North Waziristan is based on judgment, keeping in mind our capacities, priorities and overall national interest.” “This in no way should be interpreted as lack of Pakistani resolve to fight terrorism,” it said. Part of the tribal belt on the Afghan border, North Waziristan is home to 350,000 people but considered a stronghold for the most dangerous militants in the world and largely impenetrable. Washington has branded the rugged area a global headquarters of al-Qaeda. Pakistani commanders have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains in South Waziristan and the northwestern district of Swat need to be consolidated to prevent their troops from being stretched too thin. The ministry said that the Pakistani army had conducted “calibrated operations” against terrorist and extremist forces to establish the writ of the state and disrupt al-Qaeda and its affiliates. “Recently North Waziristan has been under sharp focus. Despite battling with the worst floods in 100 years, (the) Pakistan army continues to maintain a presence of over 34,000 troops in North Waziristan,” the ministry said. “Constant pressure and squeeze, without going in for a large scale ground operation, has been applied on the terrorists, with success, gaining better control of the area,” it added.
By: Dawn News