General Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, has weighed in on the debate over the potential for the US air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda to expand into Baluchistan province, according to the Daily Times. During a meeting of the Tripartite Commission, Kiyani reportedly warned the US against conducting strikes in the province.
Last week, US military and intelligence officials told me that an expansion of the US air campaign into Baluchistan would likely lead to an internal revolt in the Pakistani military. General Kiyani knows the impact a wide-reaching US air campaign would have on his military.
Kiyani’s statements come as Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, said that the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban command led by Mullah Omar, has risen to the top of the US target list. But Pakistan has refused to operate against the Quetta Shura as it is hedging its bets that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan. Patterson’s charges are explosive; previously most of the criticism on the Taliban operations in Quetta have come from the US military. She even questions if Pakistan is in control of its own territory.
Below are excerpts from Patterson’s statements in The Washington Post:
“In the past, we focused on al-Qaeda because they were a threat to us. The Quetta Shura mattered less to us because we had no troops in the region,” said Anne W. Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. “Now our troops are there on the other side of the border, and the Quetta Shura is high on Washington’s list.”
“Our intelligence on Quetta is vastly less. We have no people there, no cross-border operations, no Predators.”
“They [the Pakistani government] will not rush to cut ties with the Taliban if they think they will be back in charge there [in Afghanistan] again,” she said.
Patterson said Pakistani officials had “made it crystal clear that they have different priorities from ours,” being far more concerned about Taliban attacks inside Pakistan than across the border. She noted that Pakistan had once trained Islamist fighters to operate against India and elsewhere and that the same groups have now turned against the state.
“You cannot tolerate vipers in your bosom without getting bitten,” Patterson said. “Our concern is whether Pakistan really controls its territory. There are people who do not threaten Pakistan but who are extremely important to us.”
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