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Pakistan's Swat Offensive

Pakistani security forces report having captured a strategic mountain peak from pro-Taliban insurgents in the Swat Valley area of northwest Pakistan. Some forty insurgents were reportedly killed in the fighting. This brings the number of insurgents killed in recent weeks in the Swat offensive to more than two-hundred, among them, a local insurgent commander. “Local people are supporting the action against the militants,” said Major General Waheed Arshad, a spokesman for the Pakistani army. Pakistani troops also captured and closed an extremist radio station known as “Mullah Radio.”

Operated by pro-Taliban extremist cleric Maulana Fazlullah, the station threatened violence against those who reject the Taliban’s version of Islamic law and called for insurrection against Pakistan’s government. In an editorial entitled, “Finally, boots on the ground in Swat,” the Pakistani Daily Times newspaper said Fazlullah’s reign of fear in the Swat Valley was supported by al-Qaida terrorists. “The hold al-Qaida has on people like the warlord Fazlullah stems from many factors,” the editorial said, “not the least of which is funding and control of the local economies.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the U.S. is “certainly supportive of the government of Pakistan’s efforts to combat violent extremism in the Swat region”:

“I also have no doubt about the commitment of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani army, and the Pakistani security forces to deal with that situation. . .A democratic Pakistan that continues the fight against terror is vital to the interests of both the United States and Pakistan.”

Mr. Negroponte said military force is not the only necessity for defeating terrorism. “The United States believes that the best way for any country to counter violent extremism is to develop and nurture a moderate political center.” Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte said the U.S. is “working with the government and people of Pakistan to fight violent extremism and we think that one of the best ways to do that is to move forward with the democratic political process.”