US secretary of state arrives in Islamabad on Friday, amid straining relations between the two countries.
|North Waziristan has long been a haven for the Haqqani group which is fighting US troops in Afghanistan|
Pakistan will soon launch an air and ground military offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for armed groups on the border with Afghanistan, media reports say.
The United States has long demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in the region to hunt down the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest Afghan armed factions fighting American troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been reluctant, but has come under intense US pressure to act after it was discovered that Osama bin Laden had been living in the country.
The News, a leading Pakistani daily, quoted unnamed “highly placed sources” as saying Pakistani airforce planes would soften up targets under the “targeted military offensive” before ground operations were launched.
The newspaper said an understanding had been reached over the offensive during last week’s visit by Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state.
But a Pakistani military spokesman denied the reports as based on “rumours”.
However, reporting from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab described the planned operation as very significant.
“North Waziristan has long been a haven for a group called the Haqqani network, of course a very powerful group in Afghanistan which has long fought against US and NATO forces.
” We are hearing that it is going to be a targeted military offensive in North Waziristan and what we are also hearing is that the Pakistani military would start with what they described as ‘surgical air offensive’ followed by ground troops.
“Now we don’t know when exactly this would happen but really what this is is Pakistan meeting a very key demand from the United States.
A US embassy official said he was checking into the report. Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.
Pakistan has maintained that its troops were already too stretched fighting Pakistani Taliban fighters in other parts of the northwest to tackle North Waziristan.
But analysts say Pakistan sees the Haqqani network as an asset to counter the growing influence of rival India in Afghanistan.
“What’s also interesting about this North Waziristan operation is obviously the geography, North Waziristan, of course has been the subject of perhaps some of the most consistent drone strikes here in Pakistan,” added our correspondent.
Drone strikes are hugely unpopular in Pakistan, and some think that with Pakistan agreeing to carry out this operation, the United States may decide to stop the drone attacks or at least reduce the number of such attacks.
“Pakistani military is looking at a way to defuse the kind of tension in the country since the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden here in Pakistan,” Tyab said.
“The Pakistani military, the Pakistani government, and the intelligence agencies, have rececived an incredible amount of criticism….that they have never really seen in their time of existence.
“So really what they are trying to do is trying to meet public mood, (by) trying to stop these US drone attacks within their borders.”
Meanwhile, a blast hit a restaurant in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, wounding 12 people, according to Reuters news agency.
“We are checking the cause of blast….,” a government official in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan where the blast took place on Monday, told Reuters.