Pak top military official reacts strongly to US General's remarks
Islamabad, April 20, IRNA
A top Pakistani military official on Wednesday strongly reacted to remarks by Commander of the US-led forces in Afghanistan, Lt-Gen David Barno, who reportedly said that Pakistan is planning to launch an operation against militants in its North Waziristan tribal region.
"No operation is planned in North Waziristan," military operations chief in Pakistan Northwest Frontier Province Lt Gen Safdar Hussain told reporters in Peshawar to brief them about his meeting with General Barno.
General Barno told a selected group of reporters in the US embassy in Islamabad on Monday that Pakistan army is set to begin a major operation against foreign suspects and their local supporters.
Lt Gen Safdar Hussain met with General Barno in Peshawar on Tuesday and reviewed the situation.
"I told General Barno that statement about operation is figment of his imagination," General Safdar said.
He also denied any plan about a joint operation by Pakistani and American forces.
General Barno was in Pakistan to represent the United States in a meeting of the Tripartite Commission on April 18, which also groups Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Gen. David Barno had reportedly said that the US forces prepared to undertake a spring offensive in Afghanistan as it is launched in Pakistan's North Waziristan.
General Safdar condemned the US General's statement and described it as incorrect. "Pakistan is a sovereign country and makes decisions on its own."
"We do not take any dictation from anyone and operation will be launched if it is needed," the Pakistani general said, adding "We are achieving objectives without firing bullets".
"I do not know from where General Barno got information about the operation," General Safdar questioned.
To a question about Osama bin Laden, he said the al-Qaeda chief is not in Pakistan and that Pakistan has deployed some seventy thousand troops in tribal region along the border with Afghanistan to hunt down suspected militants.
Some 669 check posts have also been set up to capture wanted people, he added.
General Safdar said that he sought assistance from the US General that stop infiltration of miscreants from Afghanistan into Pakistani territory.
General Safdar's statement is the second from Pakistan military but little bit harsher than a Pakistan military statement on Tuesday that Pakistan decides for itself what needs to be done when and where.
General Barno reportedly said: "We collectively feel that there is a need to undertake an operation in North Waziristan. That's an area where I think the Pakistani military is about to undertake a military operation to keep pressure on terrorist networks.
In March last year, Pakistani forces began large-scale operations against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and tribesmen supporting them in South Waziristan.
The army believes hundreds of foreign Islamic militants, including Arabs, Afghans and Central Asians, are holed up in South Waziristan.
::IRNA No.040 20/04/2005 15:13 --End
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