Floods delaying military operation in N Waziristan: Gates
* US defence secretary says likelihood of direct US military action in Pakistan ‘very low’
* Terrorist havens in Pakistan remain a major threat to Afghanistan
KANDAHAR CITY: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday said that the Pakistan military’s planned military operation in North Waziristan might be delayed due to the devastating floods in Pakistan.
“Unfortunately the flooding in Pakistan is probably going to delay any operations by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan for some period of time,” he told reporters during a field visit to Kandahar.
“But I think the solution here is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghan, Pakistani cooperation to take care of these targets,” he said.
Gates further said that militants operating out of safe havens in Pakistan remained “a major threat” to Afghanistan, but stressed that cooperation between NATO-led forces and the Pakistani military was increasing.
He said he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai had agreed on the need for stepped up cooperation between the ISAF and the Pakistani military to “get rid of” insurgent sanctuaries.
“Cooperation between the two is increasing and everybody understands that the sanctuaries on the other side of the border are a big problem,” Gates said. However, Gates said the likelihood of direct US military engagement in Pakistan was “very low”.
Counterinsurgency: As Gates toured US bases and met with troops in the thick of the fighting in Kandahar city, he said he saw and heard evidence that the US counterinsurgency strategy was taking hold in Afghanistan’s critical Kandahar province.
US and other foreign troops have fought hard campaigns in Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand province over the past year, suffering more casualties as they push into a network of valleys and mountains seeking out Taliban fighters. The past week has been especially difficult, with 20 US soldiers killed in one four-day period. Seven soldiers had been killed in two roadside bomb attacks on Monday, the most effective weapon used by militants.
Gates wanted a firsthand look at operations in the dangerous south where Afghan and international troops are ramping up security. The Obama administration plans a top-to-bottom assessment of the war in December. The review will question whether Obama’s strategy is working. “I come away from my visits down here today encouraged,” Gates told reporters travelling with him. He said that signs of progress were incremental, but growing.
Gates spoke with several dozen US service members. “You guys are in the forward foxhole and what makes a difference in the whole campaign is your success here in Kandahar city,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there are going to be more tough days ahead,” Gates said, adding, “You know that better than anybody.” Gates had earlier arrived in Afghanistan from Baghdad, where he attended ceremonies to mark the end of US combat operations there after seven years. That milestone has shifted the US military focus back onto Afghanistan at a time when the US public, and even some within Obama’s Democratic party, are becoming increasingly sceptical about whether the Afghan war is worth fighting. agencies