US Wants Army Action in Tribal Areas of Pakistan

The United States on Tuesday prodded Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf to launch a military offensive against militants hiding in a tribal border region with Afghanistan following the collapse of a 10-month peace accord.

“I think first and foremost we have to remember that some military action is necessary, and will probably have to be taken,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and central Asian affairs Richard Boucher said.

He also said that the United States was prepared to help upgrade the Pakistan military, particularly its “frontier corps” that forms the bulk of the estimated 85,000 military forces in the tribal and border regions.

Boucher spoke after a week of violence in North Waziristan, where militant leaders over the weekend renounced a September accord with Islamabad. Pakistani authorities have made intense efforts to shore up the peace accord since the Taliban pulled out on Saturday, knowing that without it, they risk fresh violence in a region thought to contain many militants. Boucher said Tuesday that Washington was less concerned about whether the agreement worked or not, pointing out that “it’s the facts of what happens.”

“There are elements in these areas that are extremely violent and are out to kill government people, out to kill government leaders, and will not settle for a peaceful way forward,” he said. “Whether it is through an agreement or through the imposition of government will or whatever, they remain the key: no Talibanization, no cross-border activity, no al-Qaeda plotting and planning from the tribal areas,” he said.

“And we’re going to help the government of Pakistan achieve that through whatever — all these different means that might be necessary,” he said citing also joint US-Pakistan plans to develop the isolated areas. The United States has promised 150 million dollars a year for the next five years to develop the tribal areas on top of a Pakistani funding of about 100 million dollars a year.

Meanwhile President George W Bush’s top counter-terrorism aide said on Tuesday Washington rarely gets all of the help it wants from allies like Pakistan in efforts to hunt down violent extremists.

The comments from Bush’s Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism Adviser, Frances Townsend, came in reply to a question of whether the United States is getting all of the operational help it seeks from Islamabad.

“It’s really a tempting invitation. I’m not going to do it,” Townsend said with a laugh during a briefing at the White House on the latest National Intelligence Estimate of terrorist threats to the United States.

“When people ask me about our counter-terrorism cooperation, our allies around the world, the suggestion is: ‘Do they give you everything you want?’ That is almost never the case,” she added.

“And you know what? If I only cooperated with those who gave me 100 percent of what I thought I needed or wanted, I wouldn’t have a whole lot of allies around the world,” said Townsend.

“Every ally comes to the table in the fight against terrorism through the lens of their own national interest. What did they need to get in the fight? What’s the threat to their own internal stability or the security of their own people?” Townsend explained.

“And so we always work to strengthen those alliances. We always work to find more common ground so that we’re more closely aligned. But it doesn’t mean that we get everything we want. But we also can’t walk away from people just because we don’t get everything we want when we want it,” she said.

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