ISLAMABAD, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Gen. Raheel Sharif, leader of Pakistan's army and regarded as the country's most powerful leader, confirmed he will retire in November.
Sharif is the leading voice in Pakistan's vigorous offensive against the country's Islamist extremist Taliban, an offensive that has resulted in a dramatic drop in terrorist attacks of over 50 percent, and is credited with efforts to bring the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. Despite his departure in November, the fight against "terrorism will continue with full force and vigor," a Chief of Army Staff spokesman announced.
The position of Army chief is arguably Pakistan's most powerful position and Sharif, 59, who has had the post since 2013, has the respect of leaders and legislators across the country's political spectrum. An October government poll showed his approval rating among Pakistanis was at 83 percent.
His acclaim comes largely from a major military operation against the Pakistani Taliban, undertaken while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – no relation – advocated peace talks. Gen. Sharif evacuated over one million civilians from Pakistan's North Waziristan, near the Afghan border, and sent 250,000 troops to the area; the army, with support from the air force, succeeded in driving militants from safe havens in the area. The military operation increased after a Taliban attack on an army-operated school in December 2014 in which more than 150 people were killed.
Perhaps more significantly, Gen. Sharif's retirement indicates he will not give himself an extension of three more years in the position.
"He is a true soldier and he doesn't want to be known in history as someone who was after power," commented Mehmood Shah, a retired Pakistani general who formerly oversaw security in North Waziristan and the rest of Pakistan's tribal belt.