London: The primary focus of America’s war strategy in Afghanistan could shift towards the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan and away from the south of the country, senior military officials have said.
They believe the Afghan Taliban`s ability to find sanctuary and support across the porous border with Pakistan plus the suspected presence in the lawless tribal Waziristan area of al-Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden, requires a bigger effort in the east if insurgency is to be defeated, The Guardian reports.
However, they also accept that it is possible that British commanders may resist any move by General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to concentrate firepower and resources away from Helmand, in the south.
Asked whether Pakistan was being urged by Washington to launch more Swat-style offensives on its side of the border, a senior Pakistani official insisted Islamabad, not the Americans, would decide.
"Waziristan is sovereign Pakistani territory. We will decide what happens there, and when it happens," he said.
The latest development on NATO strategy comes even as fighting along the Pakistani side of the border appears to be spreading.
Reports today said Pakistani helicopter gunships had killed 22 militants and destroyed three hideouts in attacks in the Khyber region, which abuts Peshawar. Around 150 insurgents are thought to have died in the area over recent weeks.
US officials, speaking during a recent visit by Barack Obama`s special representative in the region, Richard Holbrooke, said particular attention should be paid to Jalaluddin Haqqani and other insurgent leaders in eastern Afghanistan`s mountains.
According to an account in the Washington Post, Major General Curtis Scaparrotti, US commander of forces in the east, said Haqqani "is the central threat" in the area and "he`s expanded that reach".
This month, McChrystal presented the broad outline of his Afghanistan strategic review to Obama, placing greater importance on the need to protect Afghan civilians and increase security as a means of encouraging political and economic development.
But the specifics of the new strategy, including the location and number of expected additional troops deployments, are still being debated.