Pak drags feet on new offensive in tribal belt

Pak drags feet on new offensive in tribal belt Islamabad: Pakistan is buying time in North Waziristan -- gathering intelligence, building alliances and insisting any assault into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fortress take place at its own time and choosing.

Part of the tribal belt on the Afghan border, North Waziristan is home to 350,000 people but considered a stronghold for the most dangerous militants in the world and largely impenetrable.

It is also a rumoured hiding place of Osama bin Laden.

Commanders are walking a tightrope, balancing US pressure for action against fears that a major push into the hornet's nest would make enemies they cannot beat and drag Pakistan into a new wave of violence.

"The army is already over-stretched after carrying out offensives in other tribal regions," one Pakistani security official told.

"Security forces got in touch with local tribesmen in a policy of dialogue and asked them not to harbour any insurgents, and this policy has worked," he said.

As well as the bin Laden connection, North Waziristan's mountains are also a refuge for Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban who escaped an offensive in neighbouring South Waziristan and networks fighting US forces in Afghanistan.

A US drone campaign already trained on North Waziristan has been stepped up since Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad was charged in the United States for plotting an attempted May 1 bomb attack on New York. Shahzad told interrogators.