Pakistan will consider mounting an anti-Taliban offensive in North Waziristan Agency only when other Tribal Areas are stabilised, a senior military officer said on Tuesday, a position likely to anger Washington.
Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik, the main military commander for the northwest, said it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand agencies.
Addressing a media briefing with Frontier Corps Inspector General Maj General Nadir Zeb, Lt Gen Malik said, “What we have to do is stabilise the whole area. I have a very large area in my command,” he told reporters on a trip to Orakzai agency. “The issue is I need more resources.”
There are already six brigades in North Waziristan which carry out daily operations, he said. He said the army is getting villagers involved in efforts to keep the Taliban from returning by providing some of them with rifles.
The military commander for northwest vowed to restore complete peace and stability to the Tribal Areas by 2012, saying efforts had been stepped up to crush militants. He said a majority of the portion of FATA had been cleared of suspected militants and the entire area would be declared peaceful soon.
“A limited military action against militants is being taken as per our own requirements in North Waziristan,” he said. He said return of internally displaced people from South Waziristan might start in the first week of November, for which all arrangements had been made.
FC IG Nadir Zeb said a limited operation was underway against terrorists in Upper Orakzai Agency, adding at least 67 personnel of the security forces had been martyred and another 213 had been injured in the operation.