South Waziristan operations: Top US general heading for Pakistan


Islamabad : Gen David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, will leave for Pakistan Monday for discussions with Pakistani commanders who are conducting a major operation against the Taliban in South Waziristan.

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“The decision to send Gen Petraeus, who was treated for prostate cancer last week, shows the importance Washington attaches to this operation in an area it describes as an Al Qaeda safe haven,” Dawn reported Sunday.

In a related development, the US is rushing in equipment that would help with mobility, night fighting and precision bombing, while a senior military spokesman told reporters in Washington that the Pentagon was closely monitoring the operation, the newspaper said.

Pentagon officials also said that Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had spoken to Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to emphasise continued US support.

Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said senior US officials were alert to the recent violence in Pakistan and “are watching the situation closely”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recent military offensives had forced her to change her views about Pakistan’s ability to confront the militants.

Speaking about the south Waziristan operation, she said the Pakistani military was “very much focused on also going into the heartland of where the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are located and where these plots and these attacks are planned and directed”.

The South Waziristan offensive comes after the security forces cleared four districts, including Swat, of the Malakand division in the North West Frontier Province of the Taliban. The militants, in a desperate bid to stave off the current operation, had attacked the Pakistani military headquarters Oct 10 and three police establishments in Lahore Oct 15.

The Taliban are also said to be responsible for four suicide bombings – three of them in the northwestern city of Peshawar, two of which occurred on successive days. The six incidents that occurred Oct 9-16 claimed 124 lives and injured many more.