Pakistan has said it has launched an offensive in North Waziristan, believed to be the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. The move follows months of American encouragement to take on al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Senior military officers told the foreign media that "probing" operations in the lawless tribal area had already begun and the aim was to clear North Waziristan of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters by the end of June. Confirmation of an imminent full-scale offensive in the tribal areas marks an apparent about turn by Pakistan which will be warmly welcomed in Washington if large-scale operations take place. An offensive in North Waziristan could provide crucial flanking protection for American and British troops in Afghanistan as well as disrupting the Taliban leadership. American drone attacks on targets in North Waziristan, carried out with the acquiescence Islamabad, have been taking place with increasing frequency. On Wednesday, three American missiles, killed an estimated six Taliban inside a compound in North Waziristan. The Pakistani military has previously resisted intense pressure from the United States to target the so-called "Haqqani Network" of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taliban leader, which is one of the most deadly forces in the Afghan insurgency. Haqqani has long been regarded as a "Pakistani asset" and Islamabad had declined to attack him, claiming that their forces were already overstretched in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley an explanation that the Obama administration publicly accepted. North Waziristan is also home to several other senior Taliban leaders who are regarded as "pro-government" and have been helpful to Islamabad during its offensive against rival Taliban factions in neighbouring South Waziristan. The change in policy was highlighted on Thursday when Major-General Tariq Khan, commander of the Frontier Corps said five of the country's seven tribal areas were now under government control and that operations to retake the remaining two, Orakzai and North Waziristan, would be completed in the next three months. He told The Daily Telegraph the operations carried out so far, to take out al-Qaeda and Taliban positions, had been kept deliberately low key for maximum impact. Gen Khan said: "This will finish in a couple of months. We'll take care of all of them. We're just waiting for the major operations, like Orakzai and North Waziristan, to finish, to spare us the troops to start changing our methodology." He said that unlike the offensive in South Waziristan, which began last year and involved 25,000 troops, the strategy in North Waziristan would be to carry out a series of smaller actions. "Instead of kinetic, concentrated operations, we will start search and cordon and sting operations for which actually you need more boots on the ground." (The Telegraph)