Pakistan's Foreign Minister Says Taliban in Disarray
By Meredith Buel
08 October 2009
Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said Wednesday terrorists are in retreat in his country and the Taliban are in disarray. The foreign minister made his comments during an address in Washington.
Monday's deadly suicide bombing inside the heavily guarded U.N. World Food Program headquarters in Islamabad underscores the problems facing Pakistan's government as it attempts to secure parts of the country infiltrated or controlled by militants.
Pakistani officials say they expect more attacks by extremists as the military prepares to launch a major offensive in South Waziristan, a rugged tribal region that is considered a Taliban stronghold.
Pakistan has had success in driving insurgents from some regions in the northwest of the country. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country is at a crucial phase in its fight against terrorism. "Terrorists are in retreat, with their top leadership in [the] Malakand [region] and [the] Swat [Valley] either captured or killed. The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, is dead. The Taliban in the tribal regions are in disarray," he said.
Pakistani officials say Taliban leaders in Waziristan recently gathered to plan attacks to avenge Mehsud's death. He was killed in August in an apparent U.S. missile strike.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said the Pakistani military's operations in the tribal areas are part of a national strategy to deny physical, political and ideological opportunities to terrorists and extremists.
"Experience gained from military operations in [the] Swat [Valley], the challenges of managing an internally displaced population, and the subsequent reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts serve as a template for further operations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan," he said.
Qureshi's speech to the Council on Foreign Relations comes as there is intense debate here in Washington over whether U.S. President Barack Obama should deploy more troops to Afghanistan.
The top American commander in Afghanistan has warned that the United States might lose the conflict if additional military forces are not sent to the country.
Pakistan's foreign minister declined to comment on the issue. But he said driving the Taliban from what had been safe havens in Pakistan should help the effort to bring stability to neighboring Afghanistan.
"Instability in Afghanistan, especially in the south and east, inevitably spills over to Pakistan. The converse is also true. If Pakistan is back on the path towards sustainable development that extends all the way to our tribal region and up to the border with Afghanistan, it cannot but have a stabilizing effect on Afghanistan," he said.
It is not clear when Pakistan's army will begin its operation in South Waziristan, which is believed to be a possible hiding place for al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Qureshi said Pakistan's military is ready to take action. "If the security forces of Pakistan knew where he was, we would get him. We would get him. By doing that, we would be scoring a huge point in demonstrating our commitment to a larger cause," he said.
The foreign minister's Washington visit follows a decision by the U.S. Congress last week to approve a $7.5 billion civilian aid program for Pakistan.
Qureshi called the aid an investment in American and global security.
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