Pak set to launch military offensive in South Waziristan

      Pakistan's military is set to launch a ground operation in the Taliban's main stronghold in Pakistan's tribal areas, South Waziristan. For three months, the Pakistan Army has been charting out plans, holding indepth deliberations and studying past operations that failed miserably, the New York Times reports. The paper quoted a military official as saying that they are expecting stiff resistance in Waziristan, which has also become a key base for Al Qaeda. "This is where we will be fighting the toughest of all battles. If we don't take the battle to them, they will bring the battle to us," the official said. In the past, two failed military operations led the Pakistan government to sign a series of peace deals with the Taliban. But these deals only helped militants to regroup and tighten their hold on the region. Since June, thousands of Pak soldiers have been sitting on the fringes of the area, waiting for orders from the military high command to move in. "As far as we are concerned, the operation should have been launched three months ago. Baitullah is dead and his group seems to be in some form of disarray. And this provides the best opportunity to go after them," the paper quoted a senior government official, as saying. Recently, Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani described Waziristan as an intelligence black hole. "We have to move in." However, the road to Waziristan is not going to be easy. The Army will not only have to brave a tough and treacherous terrain, where snows arrive in late November, they will also have to face a formidable composition of militants. The Mehsud militants not only have the advantage of familiarity with the area, but their numbers - estimated at 6,000 to 7,000 - have been thickened by foreign elements, in particular Uzbeks, who have a reputation as ferocious fighters. Then there is the Haqqani network, which uses the area as a base for its operations in Afghanistan, and there is Al Qaeda, which depends heavily on the Mehsud fighting force.

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