Pakistan is to extend its war on the Taliban beyond Swat into the fiercely independent tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Usama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership are believed to be hiding.
"We’re going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations," President Asif Ali Zardari told The Sunday Times in an interview. "Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight."
He said Pakistan would need billions of pounds in military assistance and aid for up to 1.7m refugees, the biggest movement of people since the country’s split from India in 1947.
To help take on the militants, the Pakistan army is for the first time to accept counterinsurgency training from British and American troops on its own soil.
"We need to develop our capability and we need much more support," said Zardari. "We need much, much more than the $1 billion [military aid] we’ve been getting, which is nothing. We’ve got 150,000 troops in [the tribal areas] — just the movement of that number would cost $1 billion."
Pakistan’s army is geared towards conventional warfare against its old enemy India. There have long been concerns in Whitehall and Washington at its ineffectiveness and lack of commitment against militants.
A British project proposed two years ago to train the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force in the tribal areas, met with resistance. Pakistan has now agreed to back this initiative and also begin training by US special forces.
Senior U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal that 25 to 50 special forces personnel are to be based at two new training camps in Baluchistan.