News | May 7, 2009

Gates: Taliban 'overreached' in Pakistan offensive

WASHINGTON (May 7, 2009) – The Taliban “overreached” in their offensive in Pakistan’s Buner district, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday in Kabul.

The secretary met with leaders and troops in Afghanistan, and then held a news conference.

“We are entering a critical period with the deployment of significantly more American forces, as well as the upcoming Afghan presidential election,” Gates said. Afghan reporters asked Gates what the Taliban actions in neighboring Pakistan portended for Afghanistan.

“I think that the Taliban in Pakistan overreached with their offensive in Buner district, coming within dozens of kilometers of Islamabad,” Gates said. “It served as an alarm for the Pakistani government that these violent extremists in the western part of Pakistan are a significant danger to the government of Pakistan.”

Gates said Pakistan has taken significant military action against the Taliban in Buner over the past week, as the Pakistani government and people realize an agreement between the government and the Taliban in the Swat Valley has failed, Gates said.

“I personally have been very satisfied with the strong response that the Pakistani government and army have taken in response to this,” the secretary said. “I think there is very little chance of the Taliban in Pakistan achieving a level of success that will give them access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” Gates said the reaction of the Pakistani army shows recognition of the danger that exists in the western part of the country.

American troops will not enter Pakistan from Afghanistan to challenge the Taliban, Gates said.

“Our goal is to work with Pakistan army and Pakistani government as they deal with this problem, and we are doing all that we can to help them,” he said.