US not to scale down ops against Taliban

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 14:48

Washington: The US has said that there will
be no scale down in its military operations against Taliban linked militants in Afghanistan, despite Pakistan cutting of supplies to NATO-led forces after the deadly border air
strikes that killed 24 soldiers.

"The war effort continues," Pentagon Press Secretary
George Little told reporters as US officials said that Shamsi
air base in Pakistan was not critical to carrying out drone
strikes.

Asked how long US and NATO forces could operate in
Afghanistan without supplies coming in through Pakistan,
Little said: "It`s important to focus on the war effort. Every
one realises we have an enemy to engage in Afghanistan and the
US military is prepared to carry on."

His remarks are significant as nearly half the NATO
forces supplies run through routes in Pakistan which have been
closed by the Pakistan government after last weekend`s lethal
air raid.

After the strike, Islamabad also ordered the US to vacate
within 15 days the Shamsi air base in Balochistan, which is
believed to be used for drone-operations against militants
inside Pakistan.

The remote Shamsi air base is reportedly used as a drone
hub by the CIA, but US officials said these operations will
not be jeopardized if Islamabad goes ahead with expelling
Americans from the key base.

The American official said that if Pakistan makes good
its threat to close down the base, the move would be largely
be symbolic as US forces were now using bases in Afghanistan
to hit Taliban linked groups inside Pakistan.

"It`s not a make or break link for the remote control planes that have proved deadly against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets inside Pakistan," US officials said.
US media reports quoting intelligence sources said there
were no signs so far that Pakistan would stop US aircraft from
flying over its air space and the announcement of closing down
Shamsi air base appear to be to design to placate domestic
audience.

Shortly after the weekend`s attack, Pakistan cabinet and
military chiefs demanded that US vacate the key air base in
next 15 days.

The role of the air base remains unclear as CIA also uses
air fields in neighboring Afghanistan to launch predator and
reapers drones for attacks against militants in Pakistan.

Pentagon said top government officials and commanders
were working with the Pakistanis "on a way ahead" following
the air strikes and the White House had underscored the
importance of relationship with Islamabad in the fight against
terror.

Officials while admitting deep distrust between Islamabad
and Washington said that neither countries could afford a
complete rupture in relations.

Little said that both the US Central Command Commander
General John Allen and the top most US Commander Gen Martin
Dempsey had spoken to the Pakistan army chief Gen Parvez
Ashfaq Kayani about the incident.

"Obviously they did express their condolence and regrets,
but I think everyone realises the fact needs to be collected,
analysed and that the investigation needs to unfold," Little
said.

His comments came as the US named top air force Brigadier
General Stephen Clark to head the investigations into the NATO
air strike on Pakistani border posts.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 14:48

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