Pakistan Taliban say fighters will rebuff incoming American troops

December 24, 2009, Thursday/ 16:26:00/ AP
A top Pakistani Taliban commander says he sent thousands of fighters to neighboring Afghanistan to rebuff incoming US troops, a claim that comes as a Pakistani army offensive is believed to have pushed many of his men to flee their main redoubt.
Waliur Rehman told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Monday night that the Pakistani Taliban remain committed to battling the army in South Waziristan tribal region, but they are essentially waging a guerrilla war.

Rehman is a deputy to Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, and the man in charge of the group’s operations in South Waziristan. “Since [President Barack] Obama is also sending additional forces to Afghanistan, we sent thousands of our men there to fight NATO and American forces,” Rehman said. The Afghan “Taliban needed our help at this stage, and we are helping them.”

Col. Wayne Shanks, a US military spokesman in Afghanistan, called Rehman’s comments “rhetoric” that were not to be believed.

“We have not noticed any significant movement of insurgents in the border area,” he said.  Ishtiaq Ahmad, a professor of international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, speculated the comments were just an attempt to worsen the already-tense relationship between the US and Pakistan.

“When the United States expects Pakistan to synchronize its own counterterrorism policy with the troop surge ... the militants issue these statements in an attempt to create problems in this relationship,” said Ahmad.  Either stance is nearly impossible to independently verify. Access to the tribal belt, especially conflict zones, is severely restricted. Pakistani army spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rehman spoke in a large mud-brick compound in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.  He looked relaxed as a he sat on a carpet wearing a beige shalwar kameez robe, black vest and brown wool cap.

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