Pakistan Was ‘In Denial’ About Taliban Threat, Zardari Says
Pakistan underestimated the threat posed by Taliban militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan and was “in denial” about their strength, President Asif Ali Zardari said.
The Islamist group has a presence in “huge amounts of land” in Pakistan, Zardari said in an interview on CBS television’s “60 Minutes” show.
President Barack Obama’s new administration is pressing Pakistan to root out al-Qaeda and Taliban militants sheltering in the northwestern tribal zone. U.S. intelligence agencies say the region is a haven for extremists who carry out attacks on international forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke visited Pakistan last week, as the White House began a policy review for combating the Taliban insurgency.
“It’s been happening over time and it’s happened out of denial,” Zardari told CBS, when asked how militants had secured a foothold in the Swat Valley, only 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital, Islamabad.