Pakistan halts air attacks for month
The Pakistani military, which has been criticized by the Bush administration as not pushing hard enough against Taliban militants in the country’s tribal areas, has used jet fighters and helicopter gunships in the past three weeks to strike at insurgents pouring over the border to attack American forces in Afghanistan.This is a good way to squander the efforts of the Pakistani troops and airmen in the fight with an enemy that is trying to overthrow the government and make war on a neighboring country. It is inexplicable for a tactical or strategic sense. It may make political sense to someone in Pakistan, but it is very short sighted politics and puts the war efforts in the hands of an incompetent minority. It is possible this faction is acting in coordination with the enemy. It is another example of the lack of seriousness of the Pakistani government. In this case they are wasting the efforts of their own troops and will have to repurchase their gains in blood.
The air assaults have resulted in more than 400 Taliban casualties in Bajaur, an area of the tribal region where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have forged close ties, and have forced the militants to retreat from villages that they controlled, a military official involved in the operations said.
But on Saturday night, the Pakistani government declared a cease-fire in the area for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins here on Wednesday. The deal was arranged after the electorally important Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party, and legislators from the tribal areas said they would support Asif Ali Zardari for president in return for an end to the airstrikes.
The cease-fire prompted concerns that whatever gains had been made against militants in the region would be squandered. Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province, said the Taliban would use the opportunity to regroup.
“Some communities have risen up against the militants, and the government has to capitalize on this, has to prop them up,” he said. “They haven’t done it.”
It was unclear whether the cease-fire would extend beyond Ramadan, politicians from the tribal areas said.