“ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani army said Thursday during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that it can’t launch any new offensives against militants for six months to a year to give it time to stabilize existing gains.
The announcement probably comes as a disappointment to the U.S., which has pushed Pakistan to expand its military operations to target militants staging cross-border attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. Washington believes such action is critical to success in Afghanistan as it prepares to send an additional 30,000 troops to the country this year.
But the comments by army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas clearly indicate Pakistan will not be pressured in the near term to expand its fight beyond militants waging war against the Pakistani state. Whether it can be convinced in the long term is still an open question.
“We are not talking years,” Abbas told reporters traveling with Gates. “Six months to a year” would be needed before Pakistan could stabilize existing gains and expand any operations, he said.
The Pakistani army launched a major ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold near the Afghan border in mid-October, triggering a wave of retaliatory violence across the country that has killed more than 600 people.
The United States wants Pakistan to take on militants who use its border region as a safe home base for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but Gates said he will not directly press his hosts.”