U.S. govt expands
role in Pakistan war
Speeds weapons for military offensive
Pakistani soldiers patrol area in Sherwangi region of South Waziristan October 29. U.S. government stepped up delivery of weapons and equipment to Pakistani army following Pakistani military assault against Taliban in countrys Swat Valley in the spring.
BY DOUG NELSON
The U.S. government is playing a key role in Pakistans current large-scale military offensive against a major Taliban faction in west central Pakistan. In recent months the administration of President Barack Obama has stepped up delivery of weapons and other materiel to the Pakistani army for the assault, which began October 17.
Were really trying to accelerate everything we can to help the Pakistani military, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Dawn, a Pakistani daily, just before Obama dispatched her on an October 28-30 trip to Pakistan. Her visit was intended to solidify the two governments strategic alliance and pacify widespread anti-U.S. sentiment in the country.
According to U.S and Pakistani officials cited by the New York Times, Washington rushed delivery of arms to Pakistan in the spring when the Pakistani army launched an assault against a Taliban group in the countrys Swat Valley north of the current operation. Responding to Islamabads stepped-up war against the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, President Obama expedited delivery of 10 Mi-17 Russian-made transport helicopters requested by the Pakistani army.
The Pentagon has also rushed spare parts for Cobra helicopter gunships, infrared sensors for F-16 warplanes, hundreds of night vision goggles, day/night scopes, radios, thousands of sets of body armor, and eavesdropping equipment for intercepting cell phone calls.
A U.S. official told the Times that the number of U.S. special forces in Pakistan training Pakistani army and paramilitary forces has doubled in the last eight months to 150. Washington has also stepped up its training of Pakistani officers in the United States, according to the Times.
The Pakistani armys current offensive in the Mehsud tribal region of South Waziristan involves some 30,000 troops. A tight cordon has trapped many residents in the battlegrounds and blocked news accounts of civilian casualties. More than 200,000 residents with means to escape have fled the area, but have been provided no shelter by the government.
The army is reportedly advancing toward the interior of the region with the goal of taking and holding the area before winter sets in. While a peace accord with Taliban factions immediately to the west and north of the Mehsud battlegrounds appears intact, the army has been bombing, imposing curfews, and expelling residents from tribal areas further north where large number of Taliban are reportedly fleeing toward the Tora Bora mountains.
Outside the tribal areas, the Pakistani government has responded to a stepped-up campaign of terrorist bombings with a crackdown on illegal Afghani, Uzbek, and Tajik immigrants throughout the country.
Clintons three-day tour of Pakistan
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up a three-day tour in Pakistan October 30 where she participated in meetings with top government, opposition party, and military leaders as well as major capitalists. She also took part in news conferences and photo ops, including praying at the shrine of Muslim saint Bari Shah Latif in the capital, Islamabad.
Clinton and other U.S. diplomatic representatives met October 29 with Pakistans top general, Ashfaq Kiyani, and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the powerful intelligence wing of the military. Among the topics discussed, according to Pakistans Nation, was intelligence sharing. Although not openly admitted by either side, U.S. aerial drones are reportedly providing the army with surveillance to aid its assault.
The Pakistani military representatives reportedly stressed that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan foment hostility toward Washington in the country. Since the offensive began, Washington has conducted two suspected drone attacks in Pakistan. Both, however, were outside the area of the current offensive.
The Pakistani generals also reiterated their longstanding request for access to drone technology and other state-of-the-art weaponry, which Washington has thus far declined to provide.
One major theme of Clintons trip was Washingtons desire for the governments of Pakistan and India to reduce longstanding tensions between them.
As Clinton arrived in Pakistan, the Indian government announced the withdrawal of 15,000 troops from Indian-held Kashmir. While on a visit to the Indian Kashmir city of Srinagar October 28-29, Indian prime minister Monmohan Singh promised increased economic development in the Muslim-majority area, which remains under martial law imposed by a half million Indian soldiers. His visit was met with a general strike.
The moves by the Indian government are understood as confidence-building measures as the governments of the two nuclear-armed nations move toward a restart of negotiations, which were cut off following the Islamist terrorist attack in Mumbai last November.
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