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Delayed offensive wears at Pakistan's antiterror credibility

US envoy Richard Holbrooke Thursday defended the military, which has been launching 'softening up' operations in South Waziristan for more than a month.

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Doubts are mounting that the Pakistani military will launch a promised ground offensive into the Taliban heartland of South Waziristan. The prolonged delay is threatening Pakistan's already shaky credibility on battling Islamic militants in its territory.

The military says it's softening up the region with airstrikes, but analysts and even a top leader in the ruling coalition say that could be the end of the effort.

"These are mere mock operations in order to convince NATO as well as the United States of America that Pakistan is very serious against the extremists," says Lateef Afridi, a central committee member of the Awami National Party, a coalition partner of the government.

Instead, he says, Pakistani leaders are protecting the militants as proxy fighters in Afghanistan and a lure for Americans to "give them dollars."

'They've got their hands full'

Since signing on to the US "war on terror" in 2001, Pakistan has struggled to convince the world it has severed all ties with homegrown Islamic militants. Islamabad built up credibility with its recent operation in Swat – a gain now threatened by the failure to knock out Swat Taliban leaders as well as the delay on South Waziristan.

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