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News Analysis: Military option last resort of Sharif gov't as Taliban refuses to negotiate

English.news.cn   2013-12-23 14:26:24            

By Muhammad Tahir

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- The refusal of the Pakistani Taliban to start talks with the government and its unabated attacks on security forces could force the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resort to the"use of force"as an option to once and for all resolve the insurgency problem that has plagued Pakistan for many years.

Since he took over the government in June this year, Sharif has categorically said that he would initiate a dialogue with the Taliban in order to end the wave of terrorism in the country that has already claimed the lives of some 40,000 security personnel and civilians.

But the prime minister also said that he would not discount the use of force if the dialogue option would not work.

The Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, in a latest statement, reiterated support for the government's peace process but at the same time emphasized that terrorist attacks will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly.

This month, Sharif reiterated the dialogue proposal when he presided over a meeting with top military and civilian officials to review a new national security policy with negotiation with the militants as the main component.

But the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was quick to reject the fresh dialogue offer, dashing hopes for peace process. The Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, told the media that the group will not talk to what he called a"powerless"government and that they will continue their armed campaign.

The Taliban rejection of dialogue offer means the government could pursue the other option -- to go after the armed groups in the restive North Waziristan, the Taliban last stronghold where they plan attacks inside Pakistan and also across the border into Afghanistan.

Security officials believe that Pakistani, foreign militants and remnants of al-Qaeda have turned North Waziristan into their main stronghold where they plan attacks in the country and Afghanistan.

Several would-be suicide bombers arrested recently have revealed they got their training in North Waziristan.

Pakistan had also been under mounting pressure by the United States to act against the militants in North Waziristan, the focus of their drone attacks. But Pakistan has so far resisted the pressure to mount a massive attack on the pretext that thousands of security forces have already involved in other tribal regions and that they cannot open a new front. There had also been no political support for another military action.

A deadly Taliban suicide attack on a major fort of the security forces in North Waziristan on Wednesday, which killed five soldiers and injured over 30 more, prompted army's strong reaction against the militants.

Military officials said that some 30 militants, including 10 Uzbek fighters, were killed in retaliation. The Taliban-linked" Ansar-ul-Mujahideen" had claimed responsibility for the attack to avenge the killing of Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was eliminated in a U.S. drone strike on Nov. 1.

The military's strong retaliation reflects its strategy to clear parts of North Waziristan of militants, who now routinely launch attacks on convoys of the security forces. Latest reports from the region suggest that the military gunships bombed hideouts of militants in Mir Ali area on Sunday.

Although the government has not yet clearly announced to launch a major operation in North Waziristan, the military action over the past six days is a clear indication of a possible policy shift that would require a large-scale military operation.

The Taliban's continued attacks are likely to grow political support for military action in North Waziristan. However, Islamic groups have opposed the use of force and call for negotiations.

Inner security circles are of the view that there is a need to secure all regions bordering Afghanistan, particularly North Waziristan, ahead of next year's NATO withdrawal from the neighboring country, to avoid further instability in Pakistan. This approach could be another aspect for a military action against the militants in North Waziristan.

Editor: Shen Qing
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