Pakistani military 'bows to US pressure' on Taliban

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Pakistan's military will launch an offensive in the militant bastion of North Waziristan, a newspaper reported yesterday, days after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said Islamabad must tackle sanctuaries for al-Qa'ida and the Taliban on the Afghan border.

An understanding for an offensive in North Waziristan, the main sanctuary in Pakistan for militants fighting in Afghanistan, was reached when Ms Clinton and the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, visited Pakistan last week, Pakistan's The News reported.

The United States has long demanded that Pakistan attack the region to eliminate the Haqqani network, one of the deadliest Afghan militant factions fighting US troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been reluctant to do so, but it has come under more pressure and its performance in fighting militancy is under scrutiny again after it was discovered that Osama bin Laden had been living in the country.

The News quoted unidentified "highly placed sources" as saying Pakistan's air force would soften up militant targets in North Waziristan under the "targeted military offensive" before ground operations were launched. There was no timetable given and Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment. A US embassy official had no immediate comment.