Islamabad: Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has not ruled out the possibility of a US ground offensive in North Waziristan, but told parliamentarians at a briefing that Washington will have to think many times before launching such an attack.
“They [the US] might do it but they will have to think ten times because Pakistan is not Iraq or Afghanistan,” The Express Tribune quoted Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Kayani, as saying.
His comments came at a rare briefing held on Tuesday for members of the standing committees on defence of the two houses of parliament at the General Headquarters that went on for over three hours.
Acknowledging that the United States is pressurising Pakistan to launch a military operation in its North Waziristan region, Kayani said that the ongoing build-up of Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops along the Pak-Afghan border is a tactic to intensify that pressure.
“We have made it clear to the US that we will decide the timing of any such action according to our situation and capabilities. We have also told them that the problem lies within Afghanistan. If anyone convinces me that everything will be sorted out if we act in North Waziristan, I will take immediate action,” a parliamentarian, requesting anonymity, quoted Kayani as saying.
Kayani’s statement came hours after senior Afghan defence officials said that the country’s security forces and their NATO allies have launched a new push against the Haqqani network.
Kayani said that Pakistan had handed over its position on Afghanistan to the Obama administration in writing in 2010 and had asked the Americans to elaborate on their position but they had not done so.
“We have long-term interests in Afghanistan, others might have short … For short-term gains, we cannot lose [sight of] our long-term interests,” he added.
However, responding to a question on Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, Kayani sought to dispel the perception that Pakistan was seeking so-called strategic depth in Afghanistan.
“We cannot leave both our eastern and western borders insecure. It is wishful thinking to achieve strategic depth in Afghanistan. The Russians tried, the Brits tried, the Americans are trying. We don’t have a magic wand,” a participant quoted Kayani, as saying in his response.
However, Kayani did not deny that Pakistani secret agencies maintained contacts with ‘certain elements’ within the hierarchy of Afghan insurgent groups.
“That is where we get our information, the intelligence, from,” he admitted. “The important thing is how we use the information gathered from these elements. You can do it positively and negatively.”