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US backs Pakistan, as more flee anti-Taliban -

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Reporter: Kim Landers

PETER CAVE: As Pakistan steps up its military offensive against the Taliban, the Obama
administration says a secure and stable Pakistan is vital to US security interests.

The United States is also pledging to help Pakistan deal with the humanitarian crisis that's
erupted as civilians flee the fighting.

The UN refugee agency says at least half a million people have been displaced.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: The scale of the humanitarian crisis gripping Pakistan keeps growing.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says half a million people have now registered for
help and that's just a portion of those who've fled the fighting between the Pakistani army and the
Taliban in the country's northwest.

Pakistan's Health Minister Ejaz Jakhrani has visited one of the camps that's sprung up to
accommodate the tide of refugees.

EJAZ JAKHRANI: At the moment Pakistan is in trouble and Pakistan is going through hard times and
Pakistan is fighting not only their world, it is the international world that Pakistan is fighting.

So we need all international communities to help us in this hardship time.

KIM LANDERS: Pakistan's army has been pounding Taliban training camps, hideouts and logistics
centres in the country's northwest for 16 days.

Military officials say 751 militants have been killed and Pakistani commandos have now attacked a
suspected stronghold of a regional Taliban commander in the Swat Valley.

Major General Athar Abbas is a Pakistani military spokesman.

ATHAR ABBAS: Heliborne troops have landed in the valley of Peochar and their mission is to conduct
search and destroy operations.

KIM LANDERS: Pakistan's military action is earning praise from the United States.

The US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke says it's an "extremely
difficult" situation.

But he insists Pakistan is not in danger of becoming a failed state, overtaken by Islamic
extremists.

He says the US would oppose another military led government in Pakistan and he also insists that
the US can't walk away from Pakistan without damaging its own vital national security interests.

But at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington today Richard Holbrooke has been asked if he
believes Pakistan is doing everything it can to capture Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I don't know the answer to that because I don't know what it is they are not
doing that they could be doing. They have captured over, and killed and eliminated over the years,
a good number of the leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda but others have been under less pressure.

KIM LANDERS: Richard Holbrooke has also defended the increase of US troops in Afghanistan.

He says the extra troops are "absolutely critical" to the war effort, despite the risk that the
Taliban and Al Qaeda will be driven further into Pakistan.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: An additional amount of American troops and particularly if they are successful
in Helmand and Kandahar could end up creating a pressure in Pakistan which would add to the
instability.

KIM LANDERS: Richard Holbrooke says the US military is well aware of this possibility and he says
it's having what he describes as "intense discussions" with the Pakistani army so that they're
prepared.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.