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About 150 militants attacked a Pakistani Army checkpoint in the tribal region along the Afghan border Thursday. This comes on the heels of a series of US drone attacks in the region, which remains a bastion for various militant groups despite years of US drone attacks and Pakistani Army offensives.
Eight Pakistani soldiers and some 12 militants were killed. The attack, this time in South Waziristan, seems to be part of a new militant campaign of large-scale assaults to daunt the Army and government, Reuters reports. No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a similar style attack last week that involved as many as 400 militants.
The US recently told Pakistan's military, its civilian government, and its intelligence agency that they all need to do more to combat a militant presence. Meanwhile, US airstrikes in the border region are up in recent months, with five last week alone, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
South Waziristan was supposedly cleared of militants in 2009 after an intense Pakistani Army offensive there, but many of the militants fled to North Waziristan, the Associated Press reports. US airstrikes have lately focused on that area because Pakistan has resisted staging an offensive there. North Waziristan's militants appear to be more focused on staging attacks across the border in Afghanistan than against Pakistani targets. Reuters reports that rumors of a major Army offensive in North Waziristan have driven many of the militants back into the south.
Pakistan's Army and intelligence agency have been under intense scrutiny since the US raided Osama bin Laden's compound in the country in May. Since Mr. bin Laden's killing, the US has expressed increasing concern about Pakistan's commitment to fighting militancy. On Wednesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta urged Pakistan to do more, AFP reports.
"It is vital that Pakistan live up to its end of the bargain, cooperating more fully in counterterrorism matters and ceasing to provide sanctuary to Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups," Mr. Panetta said in a statement to US legislators.
Pakistan is frustrated by what it sees as a lack of international acknowledgement of the toll that counterterrorism efforts have taken. AFP reports that more than 4,400 people have been killed in the country since it began the anti-Islamist offensive in 2007.
The US-Pakistan partnership against terrorism is unpopular with the Pakistani public, which widely believes that the US has used militancy as an excuse to violate the country's sovereignty. An an op-ed in Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, Samar Zuberi writes that Pakistanis feel like their needs are being ignored while the country focuses on what the international community is saying. Money has been funneled into defense spending, while public services get little attention.
Rational discourse between Pakistan and its allies on the actual situation of this war is lacking, and amongst this political turmoil the Pakistani people seem to have been forgotten. Pakistan is wedged between two conflicting narratives and the country has been unable to provide a clear position on its actions internally or to its allies. …
Community leaders commonly believed that the `war on terror` is an international conspiracy. This, in essence, represents the opinion of people that live in some of the worst conflict-affected areas. This view has been voiced again after Bin Laden`s assassination and the attack on the PNS Mehran base.
All the while, Pakistan`s allies have been insinuating that the country is supporting the very enemies it has promised to defeat. The people of Pakistan are confused and angry, and the government and the establishment have not yet been able to provide the nation with the answers it deserves. Domestically, there is talk of holding leaders accountable, but the chances of this happening appear slim considering Pakistan's track record.