ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Obama administration is putting pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Taliban and Qaeda militants from the country’s tribal areas, but the push is straining the delicate relations between the allies, Pakistani and Western officials say.
The Pakistani military’s recent heavy offensive in South Waziristan has pleased the Americans, but it left large parts of Pakistan under siege, as militants once sequestered in the country’s tribal areas take their war to Pakistan’s cities. Many Pakistanis blame the United States for the country’s rising instability.
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Pakistan this week, as she is scheduled to do, she will find a nuclear-armed state consumed by doubts about the value of the alliance with the United States and resentful of ever-rising American demands to do more, the officials said.
The United States is also struggling to address Pakistan’s concerns over the conditions imposed on a new American aid package of $7.5 billion over five years that the Pakistani military denounced as designed to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.
The Obama administration has endorsed the Pakistani Army’s recent offensive in South Waziristan, suggesting it showed overdue resolve. But it has also raised concerns about the Pakistani Army’s long-term objectives. How South Waziristan plays out may prove to be a bellwether for an alliance of increasingly divergent interests.
The special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, said Friday that the Obama administration would be trying to find out whether the army was simply “dispersing” the militants or “destroying” them, as the United States would like.
From the number of troops in South Waziristan, it was not clear that the army wanted to “finish the task,” said a Western military attaché, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to diplomatic protocol.
The army would not take over South Waziristan as it had the Swat Valley, where the military is now an occupying force after conducting a campaign in the spring and summer that pushed the Taliban out, the officials said.
It remains to be seen how the campaign will play out in a region where the army has failed in the past, analysts said. The army has sent about 28,000 soldiers to South Waziristan to take on about 10,000 guerrillas, a relatively low ratio, according to military specialists.
In all, of the roughly 28,000 soldiers, there are probably about 11,000 army infantrymen, said Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier. Instead of a ratio of one to one, he said, the ratio should be at least five to one. Continue reading