US wants Baitullah Mehsud's elimination: Holbrooke
Last updated: 24 July, 2009
Islamabad, PTI: 14:38 IST
Branding Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud as ''one of the most dangerous and odious people in the region,'' US special envoy Richard Holbrooke has said that his elimination was ''without a doubt'' of strategic importance to Washington.
Holbrooke asked Pakistani security forces to go after Mehsud and his key aide Maulana Fazlullah because they pose a serious threat to this country.
The Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan said that Mehsud, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, was "one of the most dangerous and odious people in the region" and acknowledged the US had "paid insufficient attention to him until recently."
Though the US has been slow in recognising Mehsud's importance, his elimination was "without a doubt" of strategic importance to Washington, Holbrooke told reporters here yesterday before leaving for Afghanistan at the end of a two-day visit to Pakistan.
One likely reason why Pakistani troops were delaying an assault on Mehsud's stronghold in South Waziristan tribal region was the need to secure the northwestern Swat valley to facilitate the return of thousands of people displaced by recent military operations, Holbrooke said.
"They've got to make sure when the refugees come back that they have security, so may be they're delaying the offensive," he said.
However, Holbrooke pointed out that "northern Swat is still insecure" and the Taliban leadership "has not been captured." He added: "So there's a long way to go here."
Though the Pakistan Army has said it has deployed additional troops in South Waziristan for a possible operation against Mehsud and his network, no ground assault has been launched so far. Pakistani warplanes and helicopter gunships have pounded Taliban positions in the region over the past few weeks.
Holbrooke also said the US is working to avoid mistakes that allowed the Taliban in Afghanistan to escape into Pakistan to lead an insurgency.
"We'll continue to come back (to the region) very regularly to improve coordination. That was not (the case) in 2002 and that was a grievous mistake," he said.