WASHINGTON, Oct 17: Gen David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, leaves for Pakistan on Monday for talks with Pakistani commanders who are conducting a major operation against the extremists in South Waziristan.
The decision to send Gen Petraeus, who was treated for prostrate cancer last week, shows the importance Washington attaches to this operation in an area it describes as an Al Qaeda safe haven.
In a related development, the US is rushing in equipment that would help with mobility, night fighting and precision bombing, while a senior military spokesman told reporters that the Pentagon was closely monitoring the operation.
Pentagon officials also said that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had spoken to Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to emphasise continued US support.
At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recent military offensives had forced her to change her views about Pakistan’s ability to confront the militants. Commenting on the Waziristan operation, she said the Pakistani military was “very much focused on also going into the heartland of where the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are located and where these plots and these attacks are planned and directed.”
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said senior US officials were alert to the recent violence in Pakistan and “are watching the situation closely.”