(AFP) – Aug 23, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Senior Pentagon officials are debating whether the US military should undertake independent operations against Islamic militants operating in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas, The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The newspaper said these internal equipment debates followed US intelligence warnings that Al-Qaeda and other militant groups are consolidating their hold on northwestern Pakistan.
The report came as Pakistani soldiers killed up to 35 militants in a massive offensive in northwest Pakistan, and at least six people were killed in separate bomb attacks, according to Pakistani military and police officials.
Troops are battling Taliban militants in the Swat valley in North West Frontier Province where the violence has left dozens of dead and wounded.
But there is a growing belief within the US government that the new leadership in Islamabad has proved to be ineffectual in the fight against the militants.
"Radical terrorist groups in the border regions have undermined and fought against the central government of Pakistan and carved out sanctuaries and training bases," an unnamed senior US officer in Afghanistan is quoted by The Times as saying. "They have come back, and they are presenting a significant challenge."
A team of as many as 30 trainers was supposed be sent to Pakistan this summer to operate out of a base near the northwestern city of Peshawar.
But Pentagon officials said the training has been blocked by the Pakistani government for months, in part because of anger over the June killing of 11 Frontier Corps members in a US airstrike near the Afghan border.
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