Pentagon sees Pak troop shift, downplays impact


Reuters April 29, 2010

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has shifted 100,000 of its troops from its Indian frontier to spearhead an unprecedented crackdown on militants along the Afghan border, but the offensives are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the US-led war in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

In a report to Congress, the Pentagon estimated that about 140,000 Pakistani troops were taking part in offensives against militants in the semiautonomous tribal regions of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Pentagon, which had long pressed Pakistan to take on the Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the territory, said the recent military deployments were the biggest in the country’s history on the western border.

To carry it out, more than 100,000 troops have been shifted from the eastern border with India, according to the report. “This unprecedented deployment and thinning of the lines against India indicates that Islamabad has acknowledged its domestic insurgent threat,” the Pentagon said. In the report, the Pentagon said Pakistani military operations in Fata and the Waziristan have had an impact across the border, placing a “high degree of pressure on enemy forces and reduced insurgent safe haven” in eastern Afghanistan.

Recent arrests of Afghan Taliban leaders, including the group’s No. 2, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, have “increased insurgent leaders’ concern over the security of their safe havens” and created “financial and logistical” problems, it said. A senior U.S. defense official said the arrests in Pakistan had produced “a lot of concerned chatter” among Taliban sympathizers in Afghanistan, but added, “I’ve not seen anything to indicate ... that there is a leadership crisis in the Taliban.”

“While this evolving approach is unlikely to have significant impact on the Afghan insurgency in the short term, it offers opportunities in coming months to have a greater impact on the conflict in Afghanistan depending on how PAKMIL (Pakistani military) operations evolve,” the report said.

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