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Drones push Taliban from NWA

PESHAWAR: A US campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan is driving some insurgents from their key haven of North Waziristan into other tribal districts, where they are aggressively laying the groundwork for a new base of operations, The Wall Street Journal reported Pakistani officials as saying, on Friday.

The terrorists are fleeing into regions where the Pakistan Army is already deployed in large numbers and is in a position to fight. North Waziristan has become a nerve centre of al Qaeda, Taliban and allies in the Haqqani network, from where they stage attacks on troops in Afghanistan. The CIA’s drone campaign in the Tribal Areas has begun to push terrorists north out of North Waziristan into other semiautonomous tribal regions, Kurram and Orakzai, the newspaper quoted Pakistani political and military officials and local tribal leaders.

“They’ve dispersed from the south (of the tribal regions) all over,” said an ISI official. The Taliban don’t appear to be abandoning their North Waziristan base, and it is unclear how many forces they intend to shift – or if they are simply making contingency plans, the newspaper said. An earlier Pakistani offensive into South Waziristan in 2009 pushed many terrorists north to North Waziristan. US officials say that terrorists have been known to move among Tribal Areas, but that they were unaware of any large-scale movements out of North Waziristan in response to the recent drone strikes.

Pakistan has up till now resisted US pressure to launch a new major offensive in North Waziristan, arguing its army is stretched thin and doesn’t yet have control of neighbouring tribal agencies. It says a large-scale operation in North Waziristan will just push terrorists into other areas and prompt retaliatory strikes in Pakistani cities. The CIA, meanwhile, has ramped up drone attacks. The US has not targeted Kurram with a large number of strikes, according to the New America Foundation think tank, which counts only three attacks there in the past two years. The Pakistani army has been on the offensive in Kurram and Orakzai, but gains there have looked fragile. The army has said it is moving to reassert control in the two tribal agencies, but that it will take time.

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