Pakistan will use “all appropriate means” to attack militant hideouts inside the country, the Pakistani prime minister said yesterday amid rising criticism of the nation’s security forces in the wake of a deadly 16-hour assault on a naval base last weekend.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave no indication the army was considering new offensives along the Afghan border, where most of the militants in Pakistan are based along with other groups and affiliates who are attacking US troops in Afghanistan.
The US wants to see action in the North Waziristan region especially, where a deadly Afghan Taliban faction is based, to help it put pressure on Afghan insurgents and enable it to begin withdrawing troops later this summer after 10 years of war.
Washington has been quietly helping train Pakistan security forces in the northwest, but that cooperation has faltered amid several incidents that have exposed the fragile nature of ties between the two nations — most recently the unilateral May 2 raid in which US Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Marine Colonel David Lapan said the US was reducing the number of its military trainers in Pakistan, in a further sign of the deteriorating relationship. Lapan said there were more than 200 trainers in Pakistan, but he provided no details on how many had been withdrawn since Islamabad made its request two weeks ago.
Gilani’s remarks followed a meeting late on Wednesday with defense chiefs.
He said the government “will ensure that terrorists hideouts are being destroyed using all appropriate means.”
“It is clear that we are now entering another defining phase in the struggle against terrorists and for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s desire to play a leading role in any negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s army has attacked militants in several border regions over the last four years, but with limited success and public support. It has yet to attack North Waziristan, now considered the hub of al-Qaeda and Taliban activity, saying its troops are too stretched.