Pak Army still needs old Taliban `strategic assets' to counter India in Afghan backyard

      The Pakistan military believes the Americans and the British will withdraw from Afghanistan - and when they do, they will need old Taliban friends such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin to minimize the influence of India in its Afghan backyard. Several key Taliban figures are protected by the Pakistan Army, which still regards them as "strategic assets". These "assets" continue to organize attacks on NATO forces from Waziristan, unmolested or challenged by the Pakistan Army, reports The Telegraph. It is for this reason that Islamabad has turned a blind eye to the presence of Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura, the ruling council that coordinates the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan from a hideout close to the Balochistan state capital. Although Pakistan's military chiefs have been talking about an "imminent" assault since last June, all the evidence has pointed to deep reluctance to launch a massive ground offensive they believe will provoke an overwhelming backlash with suicide bombings and fidayeen commando attacks throughout the country. It was the Taliban's new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who finally forced a decision upon the army when his militants launched a daring commando raid into the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi. Just 10 fidayeen gunmen shot their way into the GHQ, seized 42 hostages, and killed 14 soldiers and civilians in a 22-hour siege. The real humiliation for the army is that most of these raids were shown, shot by shot, on live television news channels. Hakimullah's challenge could not have been more forceful or more public. Hakimullah's onslaught questioned the military's invincibility, and army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, could not let that challenge pass.

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