Eliminate foreign rebels, US tells Pak

Associated Press

Kabul, May 3:

A top US commander expressed concern today about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism strategy near the Afghan border and said a “significant” number of foreign militants holed up there must be eliminated. “There are foreign fighters in those tribal areas who will have to be killed or captured,” said Lt Gen David Barno, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has offered an amnesty to foreign militants in South Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border where Al Qaeda and Taliban rebels are believed to be living.

On Saturday, the government pushed back by one week an April 30 deadline for foreigners to surrender. Despite a threat of renewed military action, no foreign militants have yet taken up the amnesty offer. “It’s very important that the Pakistani military continue with their operations to go after the foreign fighters in particular, who in my view will not be reconciled,” Barno said. “We have some concerns that could go in the wrong directions,” he said.

A two-week operation in the region in March left more than 120 people dead, and failed to capture any top Al Qaeda men. The bloodshed and limited success of the offensive persuaded the government to opt for negotiations instead of force. Pakistan says it will let foreign rebels stay in the region if they eschew terrorism. Barno suggested Pakistan was dealing with a terrorist network, including Al Qaeda, which was “very crafty and has great ability to ultimately not give anything up.”