November 12, 2010 / 12:47 PM / 9 years ago

Taliban, military attacks in deadly lockstep

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s reluctance to mount another major offensive against the Taliban may be due to its fear of equally deadly reprisals by the militants, which erode the government’s credibility among its people, analysts say.

A Pakistani soldier is seen silhouetted while posing for the media during an operation organized by the army, on top of a mountain near Sherwangi Tor village in South Waziristan, October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Last year, Pakistan launched two major offensives against militants linked to al Qaeda and Taliban in the northwest bordering Afghanistan and the United States has been pushing it to mount another one in their last bastion, North Waziristan.

North Waziristan is a major base for Afghan militants fighting Western forces across the border which critics say Pakistan sees as a bargaining chip for any eventual solution of the Afghan problem once U.S. troops leave.

But analysts say reprisal attacks by militants would be more lethal if the military goes into North Waziristan.

“There would definitely be more retaliation if they go into North Waziristan because the strongest militant groups are sitting there and this is also a factor of reluctance to launch operation there,” security and political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said.

Violent reprisal attacks by militants have taken a heavy toll on civilian lives and they sap what scant support an alliance with the United States against Islamist militants exists in Pakistan.

More than 2,200 people have been killed in big militant attacks across Pakistan in the past three years and militants tend to intensify such attacks whenever the military mounts big offensives on their sanctuaries.

“Their retaliation is in proportion to the attacks and operations against them. If you are launching big operations against them, then they will launch big attacks,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on tribal and militant affairs.

Big military offensives in the northwest have almost halted after Pakistan deployed tens of thousands of troops for relief efforts during August’s devastating floods, leading to a relative lull in militant attacks since then.

But a new bout of such attacks appears to have started in recent days.

At least 15 people were killed in a massive car bomb attack on the office of a police investigating agency in Karachi on Thursday while at least 71 people were killed in attacks on two mosques near the northwestern city of Peshawar last week.

The latest attacks came amid worries among militants that a fresh offensive in North Waziristan is imminent.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the main Taliban commander in North Waziristan, last month warned of an “endless war” if an operation was launched in his power base.

Pakistani officials say they will go into North Waziristan on their own timing, but they add an offensive in the region seems to have become inevitable.

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