Pakistani Offensive Pushes Extremists, Petraeus Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2009 As the Pakistani military achieves success against extremists operating in Pakistan, the campaign also is aiding anti-insurgent efforts in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said today.
In fact, the months-long Pakistani offensive is putting the Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremists in the region “under significant pressure,” Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told National Public Radio host Steve Inskeep during a segment of the “Morning Edition” news program.
The Pakistani campaign is assisting U.S. and coalition efforts in Afghanistan, Petraeus said, noting Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar “is generally thought to be located most of the time, if not all the time, in Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s military has been engaged over the past nine months or so in several actions targeting extremist groups in Pakistan that are known to cross the border to create mayhem in Afghanistan, Petraeus said.
The offensive, the general said, indicates that Pakistan’s government and citizens now recognize “that the most pressing threat to the very existence of Pakistan as they know it is the extremist syndicate” that operates in the region, which includes Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and other insurgent groups.
Pakistani troops have conducted “quite impressive” operations against insurgents in the Swat Valley area in the northwestern frontier section of the country, Petraeus said.
Pakistani soldiers also have moved against Pakistani Taliban elements based in the country’s eastern-south Waziristan region and also are targeting other extremists operating in northern Warizistan, he said.
Pakistan has committed thousands of troops to deal with extremists operating within its borders, Petraeus said, adding “you cannot underestimate” the importance of the steps Pakistan has taken to deal with its internal terrorist threat.
The campaign has come at a cost, he pointed out, noting many Pakistani soldiers and civilians have been killed or injured over the past 9-10 months.
As the anti-insurgent campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue, Petraeus said, there needs to be very close coordination along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The general observed that Pakistan’s military campaign against extremists “has achieved a good bit” over the past nine months or so.
“But, we have a very long way to go in that regard,” he said.