Too early for Pakistan to declare victory in Swat: Holbrooke

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Islamabad, June 29 (ANI): The US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said that it is too soon for Pakistan to declare victory in the Swat Valley, where the Army has purportedly put the Taliban insurgents on the back foot.

Holbrooke, attending a G8 conference on stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan in Italy, said in an interview that it was too early for Pakistan to announce victory in Swat.

"The true test is when the refugees go back to Swat. Will they have security? Will they be protected?" The Nation quoted Holbrooke, as saying.

"Will the Army be able to keep the Taliban from coming back down over the hills? And the bill for reconstruction in Swat is going to be enormous - over a billion dollars, maybe over 2 billion.

"We're very gratified that the Army led the charge back into Swat and that they've driven the militants out of the Swat Valley. But we have a long way to go before we know the end of the story. So there is a lot left in this saga," he added

Asked about whether he knew about the number of civilians killed in Swat during the ongoing offensive of the Pakistan Army against the Taliban, Holbrooke flatly replied "No."

Responding to another question on whether there would be more casualties after the hike in US troops in Afghanistan, he said: "I don't know if the increased troops will lead to increase casualties. It happens often, but I'm not going to concede that. We have a new commander, a brilliant new commander, Gen. (Stanley) McChrystal, and he is devising new strategies and tactics."

"The Taliban are going to be put under pressure like they've never seen before. And coupled with our elimination of things like crop eradication so we don't alienate the people, coupled with Gen McChrystal's new rules over the use of airpower in an attempt to reduce civilian casualties, we may find that things go much better than expected."

The 45 nations and multilateral organisations at the G8 conference issued a statement pledging to look at ways to boost humanitarian aid to Pakistan, where fighting has displaced nearly two million people. (ANI)

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