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Taliban is biggest threat to ‘existence of Pakistan,’ says Defense Minister, pledging continued war

December 16th, 2014
03:41 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo and Mick Krever, CNN

Pakistan’s war against the Taliban will continue, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, in the wake of the Taliban massacre of Pakistani schoolchildren.

“The Taliban, these extremists, the terrorists, they are the biggest threat to peace in this region, to peace in Pakistan, to the existence of Pakistan,” Khawaja Asif said.

“We are undeterred. We won’t back off, we are on the front line for the last now almost eleven, twelve years. We need the world, especially Western countries, must recognize – unqualified recognition should be given to our sacrifices. … Even the children are dying on the frontline in the war against terror.”

At least 145 people were killed and more than a hundred injured, most of them children, at a school for the families of military personnel in Peshawar.

“The smaller the coffin, the heavier it is to carry it. And we’ve been carrying smaller coffins today, more than a hundred small coffins we’ve been carrying, the Pakistani nation.”

“It’s a very, very tragic day, and when people tell us how to conduct this war and they say that we are discriminate against this group and not doing enough otherwise, it really hurts, you know. It’s like belittling our sacrifices against this war.”

“Terror has descended upon our nation today. I have no words to express my shock, my dismay at what happened today. The whole nation is mourning but still, I would say, I will reiterate we will not give up and we shall overcome. And we’ll get rid of this menace from our country, we’ll cleanse our country from this menace.”

The siege went on for several hours before soldiers moved in, saying their efforts were hindered by improvised explosive devices planted by the extremists around the school buildings.

The Minister said the Taliban’s “reaction to the operation [the Pakistani military launched in the nearby Waziristan tribal area], which started in June, was expected. But definitely there must be some slackness in the security, that these terrorists penetrated into this school from the back of the building, which is next to a graveyard, I am told.”

Tuesday's attack and seemingly poor response has raised questions as to whether the country’s military is standing by the government’s policy on confronting terrorist attacks.

“The government, the civilian government and armed forces they are on the same page as far as the war against terror is concerned. There is absolutely no differences there.”

“We wanted to try, we wanted to give a chance to a negotiated settlement and it lasted for three, four months – nothing happened. And ultimately we went into North Waziristan, and since fourteenth of June we are fighting this war, actively fighting this war.”

Pakistan of course has a complicated relationship with the Taliban, having at times seen it as a bulwark against its traditional enemy, India.

"We do not classify between different groups of Taliban – you know, that there are good Taliban or bad Taliban. They are all bad."

Click above to watch the full interview.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Pakistan
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