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Flood, Taliban strain Pakistani forces

Aug. 12, 2010 at 1:00 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Pakistani forces need to strike the right balance between relief and the looming Taliban insurgency in parts of the northwest, analysts say.

Parts of Pakistan are underwater after monsoon rains soaked much of Central Asia. U.N. and international relief agencies are concerned about the humanitarian disaster as millions are affected by the flood.

The heartland of the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest tribal regions of the country has been particularly hard hit. Pakistani military forces have been percolating throughout the region in an effort to control militancy but many of the troops are now forced to respond to relief efforts, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports.

Pakistani Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said roughly 60,000 troops are designated for flood relief efforts. Military helicopters once reserved for combat support are now tasked with delivering flood relief. The general said, however, that his forces could handle both objectives simultaneously.

Military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told Dawn the Pakistani military has "too much on (its) plate" with the flood and the insurgency.

Rahimullah Yousafzai, a journalist and expert on the Pakistani tribal regions, said neither threat can be ignored.

"They have to try to strike a balance," he told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed a top official in the U.S.-backed paramilitary force earlier this week. The Pakistani Taliban said Tuesday that the flooding in Pakistan was a punishment from God for accepting Western support.

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