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Taliban to be flushed from N. Waziristan in two months, says Pakistan general

Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said the Pakistani Army was leading the assault in North Waziristan against Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban. "This will finish in a couple of months," says General Khan.

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Khan said the North Waziristan operation would involve many smaller actions in comparison with the offensive that started last year in South Waziristan, which involved some 25,000 men steamrolling across the area.

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"I think the kind of operations they're going to do (in North Waziristan) are going to be progressive. They're going to squeeze them out of areas, rather than carry out hard-core kinetic operations. They are going to be incremental," said Khan, who's led the 45,000-men strong Frontier Corps since September 2008.

Khan launched the assault on extremists in the tribal belt with a Frontier Corps operation in Bajaur in August 2008, with the military successively tackling each part of the trial area, most dramatically with an offensive in South Waziristan that began last October.

After the combat operations, the plan for the whole tribal area is to search every house there for links to the extremists and to go after the remnants of the Pakistani Taliban leadership, Khan said.

Frontier Corps leads the fight

The Frontier Corps, which recruits exclusively from the tribal zone it protects, came under a mass assault Wednesday in the Khyber part of the tribal area, in a clash that left 20 insurgents and six soldiers dead. Some 80 to 100 Taliban attacked the post, according to the statement from the military, along with an explosives-laden vehicle that detonated before the onslaught was repulsed.

Violence has flared since the Frontier Corps launched an operation last week in Orakzai, which is next to Khyber. So far, more than 200 militants have been killed in that offensive, according to the Frontier Corps and local government officials, including 10 wiped out by attack helicopters Wednesday. Many extremists from other parts of the tribal area had fled to Orakzai, especially from the South Waziristan offensive.

The tribal area is one of the poorest parts of Pakistan. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Al Qaeda and the Taliban fled across the border to the tribal area, turning it into an extremist fiefdom.

Khan said the world mustn't neglect the area as it did after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, or it could fall prey again to All Qaeda and its allies.

"We need $1 billion to bring stability to a land that caused pain to the entire world, and we saw that impact ultimately on the Twin Towers," Khan said. "Everybody left an open wound here. They never concluded the war. The world needs to pay up for it. There's an obligation. "

"That's not a lot of money to pacify a region that is the cause of global conflict," he said.

Under a plan the Frontier Corps and the political authorities developed, the money would be spent repairing damage to roads, schools and other infrastructure, building facilities to provide health and education to the population, and developing agriculture and industry in the tribal area.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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