U.S. gen­eral praises Pak­istan ar­rests of leaders, says they came from in­tel break­through

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

IS­LAM­ABAD, Pak­istan (AP) — The re­cent ar­rests of Afghan Tal­iban leaders in Pak­istan were the re­sult of in­tel­li­gence break­throughs and none was in­volved in rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment, the U.S. gen­eral who over­sees the war in Afghanistan said Tues­day.

The ar­rests of Mul­lah Baradar, the No. 2. Tal­iban com­man­der, and at least two other in­sur­gent leaders in re­cent weeks have been hailed as ma­jor de­vel­op­ments in the eight-year-old Afghan war and a pos­si­ble strate­gic shift for Pak­istan. But ques­tions have swirled over why the Pak­ista­nis were act­ing now against in­sur­gents who many an­a­lysts say have long en­joyed a haven in the coun­try.

Gen. David Pe­traeus dis­missed the idea that Pak­istan al­ways knew where the leaders were hid­ing out.

“I wouldn’t share your char­ac­ter­i­za­tions that, in a sense, they have al­ways had this in­tel­li­gence,” he told a small group of for­eign cor­re­spon­dents in the Pak­istani cap­i­tal. “ What has hap­pened is that there has been some im­por­tant break­throughs.”

Over the past 18 months, Pak­istan has un­der­taken sev­eral army of­fen­sives in the north­west re­gion bor­der­ing Afghanistan against Is­lamic mil­i­tants who have en­joyed rel­a­tive safety there. Those op­er­a­tions have mostly tar­geted mil­i­tants at­tack­ing the Pak­istani state, not mil­i­tants cross­ing the bor­der and fight­ing U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pe­traeus said Pak­istan still made dis­tinc­tions be­tween groups in the bor­der re­gion, but said there ap­peared to be “evo­lu­tion” in how it re­gards the threats com­ing from the area, see­ing them now as in­creas­ingly en­twined.

He also re­jected spec­u­la­tion that Pak­istan acted against Baradar and the oth­ers be­cause they may have been in­volved in talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment and it wanted to get a seat at the ta­ble by ar­rest­ing them.

“Any­time that im­por­tant leaders are killed or cap­tured ... is a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment,” he said. “I am not aware of any of th­ese in­di­vid­u­als were in­volved in any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks.”

Pe­traeus was full of praise for the Pak­istani army, say­ing the of­fen­sives in the north­west were “clas­sic coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions” that would one day be stud­ied by stu­dents of war. He also ac­cepted its rea­sons for not mov­ing im­me­di­ately into North Waziris­tan, a tribal re­gion where mil­i­tants are be­lieved to shel­ter­ing and where so far Pak­istan has re­sisted launch­ing a full-scale mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.

Pak­istani troops last year fought of­fen­sives in neigh­bour­ing South Waziris­tan and ear­lier in the Swat Val­ley far­ther north to oust Tal­iban fight­ers.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion says get­ting Pak­istan to crack down on mil­i­tants is key to winning the war in Afghanistan.

It is ramp­ing up its sup­port for the new civil­ian gov­ern­ment here as well sup­port for the Pak­istani army, which has been crit­i­cized by some for not do­ing enough to help and be­ing an un­wor­thy ally. Most vis­it­ing U.S. of­fi­cials of­fer pub­lic praise for the way it is con­duct­ing the war, likely be­cause they can­not af­ford to an­tag­o­nize such a crit­i­cal part­ner.

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