ISLAMABAD — Pakistan ordered its army to go after the country's top Taliban commander, a militant whose remote stronghold could prove a difficult test for troops but whose demise would be a major blow to insurgencies here and in Afghanistan.
The announcement Sunday of the operation in South Waziristan, rumored for weeks, came hours after a suspected U.S. missile strike killed five alleged militants there. The move will likely please Washington, which considers the tribal region a particularly troublesome hideout for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters implicated in attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Owais Ghani, the governor of North West Frontier Province, said the government felt it had to resort to force against Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud and his network. Past army action in the region had usually faltered or ended in truces.
"Baitullah Mehsud is the root cause of all evils," Ghani said, noting a slew of suicide bombings in recent days. "The government has decided that to secure the innocent citizens from terrorists, a meaningful, durable and complete action is to be taken."
South Waziristan, part of a semiautonomous tribal belt, is a possible hideout of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. As the military has pursued an offensive against the Taliban in the northwest's Swat Valley, observers have said the Taliban will not be defeated in Pakistan unless it loses its tribal sanctuaries.