U.S. sees Pakistan securing Swat before attacking Mehsud
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke hailed on Thursday the return home of many of the 2.5 million people displaced by fighting in Pakistan's Swat valley despite pockets of Taliban resistance, Reuters reported.
Holbrooke described securing valleys, where the Pakistan army opened up an offensive against the militants more than three months ago, as the first priority.
"I think they've got their hands full in Swat and Buner, Holbrooke told journalists before leaving for Afghanistan at the end of two days of talks with the Pakistani political and military leadership in Islamabad.
Holbrooke said this was the likely reason why the army was delaying an all-out assault further west against the stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in the remote South Waziristan tribal region.
"They've got to make sure when the refugees come back that they have security, so maybe they're delaying the offensive," he said, adding that he did not know the timing or nature of the looming action against Mehsud.
The United Nations said on Thursday nearly 400,000 people had returned home from the camps and makeshift shelters.
"They're returning in large numbers, thousands a day, and I think that is good news," he said.
Holbrooke spoke of the heavy U.S. financial assistance for Pakistan's government, military and its displaced people, and said that he hoped to announce help for Pakistan to overcome crippling power generation shortages when he returned next month.