Washington: While claiming in public that Pakistan is working hard to crack down on militants, a private White House review suggests it is not doing nearly enough to confront the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Using unusually tough language, the report suggests that from March to June, the Pakistani military "continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or (al Qaeda) forces in North Waziristan", CNN said citing a mandatory quarterly report to Congress.
"This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritising its targets."
The report notes bluntly that despite having a presence of 140,000 military and paramilitary personnel, the Pakistani military has been "nonetheless constrained to disrupting and displacing extremist groups without making lasting gains against the insurgency".
The White House assessment is particularly tough on Pakistan`s inability to make gains in South Waziristan, where many analysts believe key al Qaeda leaders have gained a safe haven to use as a base to plot terror attacks against Western targets, said CNN which obtained a copy of the report.
"In South Waziristan, the Pakistan military continued to conduct small-scale operations against those militants who did not flee in late 2009," the report says. "But the military largely stayed close to the roads and did not engage against those TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban) militants who returned after fleeing into North Waziristan."
The report also alludes to the repetitive nature of the country making brief progress, only to fall back down, noting that Pakistani military forces recently disrupted insurgent networks in the north. "It is notable that some of these areas had been previously cleared on numerous occasions," it says.
While the report to Congress has not been publicly released by the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to downplay the tough language by telling reporters, "I don`t think this comes as a surprise" that the assessment "finds some challenges" in getting Pakistan to crack down on militants.
"But at the same time we see progress," Gibbs said. "Pakistani troops have sacrificed thousands to take on terror...They are addressing and dealing with the threat."
The New York Times said even as the White House tried to mollify Pakistan over a helicopter strike on a border post that killed three Pakistani soldiers last week, officials acknowledged that the uneasy allies faced looming tensions over a host of far larger issues.
American pressure to show progress in Afghanistan is translating into increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups, it said.
"It is also running up against Pakistan`s sensitivity about its sovereignty and its determination to play a crucial role in any reconciliation with the Taliban."