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No military push against Taliban in 2010, says Pakistan

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrives in Pakistan to hear that Pakistan military plans no new offensives against the Taliban for six to 12 months. Will this undermine US efforts in Afghanistan?

By Saeed ShahMcClatchy Newspapers / January 21, 2010



Islamabad

Obama administration efforts to pacify Afghanistan suffered a major setback Thursday with the announcement in Pakistan that Pakistan's military plans no new assault this year on Taliban sanctuaries near the Afghan border.

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U.S. strategy in Afghanistan depends on shutting off Taliban havens in Pakistan, especially in the North Waziristan area, where leaders of the Haqqani network, which is considered the most dangerous insurgent group in Afghanistan, shelter.

Pakistan's chief military spokesman, Maj. Athar Abbas, said that any new offensive against the Taliban would have to wait until next year.

"We are not going to conduct any major new operations against the militants over the next 12 months," Abbas told the BBC. "The Pakistan army is overstretched, and it is not in a position to open any new fronts."

Abbas later revised his remarks, telling reporters who were traveling with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that operations would have to wait "six months to a year." The military didn't respond to a request from McClatchy Newspapers for clarification.

Abbas made his remarks just as Gates arrived in Pakistan for talks that were widely expected to be aimed at pressing Pakistan to expand its military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Last year, the U.S. pressured Pakistan into sending troops into the country's Swat valley, which Pakistani Taliban had overrun, and then into South Waziristan, again against Pakistani Taliban.

The military, however, hasn't moved against Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani network, which Pakistan usually denies operate from its soil. Critics have accused Pakistan's army of remaining close to some insurgent groups that it had backed in the past, including the Haqqani network, a charge that the military vehemently denies.

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