Washington: Pakistani forces are close to uprooting Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries in the country`s lawless area of south Waziristan, a top US General said on Saturday, but advised that the military needed to hold onto these captured territories.
Pakistan should put the cleared territories under a senior Corps Commander for post-conflict vigilance and rebuilding to ensure that these areas don`t slide back to
become terrorist havens, General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command, said.
Attributing the sudden rise in Taliban suicide attacks across Pakistan to the army striking decisive blows to their strongholds, the US commander said the military needed to continue their focus on the campaign.
"When you go into the enemy`s safe havens and sanctuaries, they come after you; and they try to open up new areas. It`s always been the case," Patreaus said in an interview to Bloomberg news.
“I think we have said that as Pakistan remains serious, and continues to build on the progress it achieved in Swat in NWFP. They have launched the operations into South Waziristan, as they have now, and are almost getting close to their final objectives, the enemy is going to fight back,” he said.
While commending the strong military action taken by the Pakistani forces against terrorist groups inside the country, Petraeus said the situation there is still tough. The US General, whose command stretches to US forces in Afghanistan, said the Pakistani military campaign in Waziristan, Swat and other rescue areas close to the Afghan frontier indicated that Islamabad had now come to realise that the existential threat to the country that is most pressing, at the very least, is the internal extremists, not necessarily
Not saying that that threat has gone away in their assessments, but the fact is, the threat that is most immediate -- "the wolf closest to the sled," as they say, indeed, was the internal extremists,” Petraeus said.
"They have acted on that," the US commander said.
Saying that the situation in Pakistan was "heartening" as compared to the critical situation there 10 months ago, Petraeus said.
The politicians including opposition leaders like Nawaz Sharif, the clergy and citizenry had now come to recognise that it was the internal militants that were threatening the very existence of Pakistan, he said.
But, he said, the need in the situation was "to hold and rebuild”.
"They have acted on that. Now, not only have they acted, they have done so with considerable skill. Pakistani military cleared and left Swat twice since 9/11. This time they cleared, and they have stayed. And they are holding and they are rebuilding.," he noted.