WASHINGTON - Pakistan will determine the time to launch a military operation against insurgents said to be hiding in the North Waziristan tribal area and there was no need for putting US boots on the ground, Ambassador Hussain Haqqani said in an interview. "It's only a matter of how, when and in what manner do we conduct operations there against the extremists and terrorists," Ambassador Husain Haqqani told Bloomberg News Service at its Washington Bureau. Pakistan has amassed 38,000 military and paramilitary forces in the tribal area in the past few months, he said. "Only Pakistan will determine what to do and when to do it," Haqqani said. Putting US boots on the ground is not going to happen and it's not needed, he added Pakistan now has 147,000 armed forces in tribal areas, Haqqani said, noting that the previous government, led by General Pervez Musharraf, never launched assaults in tribal areas Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Pakistan Wednesday will be an opportunity to reaffirm the allies' strategic partnership, and ensure that "we understand each other's needs and objectives" and that they are "matched by operational capacities," Haqqani said. Pakistan's armed forces are overstretched from manning both the Afghan and the Indian borders, and they also need better resources and training for fighting insurgents in mountainous areas such as North Waziristan, he added. The ambassador called Biden a "very strong" friend of Pakistan who has focused on building a "long-term partnership." President Asif Ali Zardari will be in Washington Jan. 14 to attend a memorial service for Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died last month. He will meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials, Haqqani said. Asked about the covert CIA programme to use unmanned Predator aircraft, known as drones, to target militants on Pakistani soil, Haqqani said his country has been "a partner" to the US in cases where "the United States is using technical means at its disposal to get rid of terrorists who cannot be eliminated in other ways." "But we want our sovereignty to be respected and we certainly will stand up against civilian casualties," he said. Haqqani affirmed that the US has made a decision in principle to sell Pakistan unmanned, unarmed observation aircraft to provide "eyes in the air" in its fight against militants. Pakistan has bought 18 new Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 jets from the United States, equipped with night-flying capabilities and precision munitions. Those aircraft, which Haqqani said are not yet fully deployed, will enable Pakistani forces to drop laser-guided and satellite-guided bombs under cover of darkness. The Pakistan Air Force has so far depended on 35 older- model F-16s built in the 1980s, which Haqqani said have been used in the Bajaur and Mohmand tribal areas. The new jets "will be used against terrorists and extremists, whenever they are needed," he said. Last month, President Barack Obama concluded a review of his strategy to boost troops in Afghanistan and increase aid to Pakistan. Afterwards US officials called on Pakistan to do more to crack down on militant safe havens in North Waziristan. Haqqani underscored that a decision to clear out the terrorist refuge in North Waziristan does not mean that his government is caving in to US pressure or responding to criticisms in a White House review that faulted Pakistan for making the Afghanistan war more difficult. While "it's very legitimate to say we're not meeting many benchmarks," Haqqani conceded, "Pakistan is not being given credit for what we've done in the last two years" of democratic rule. Pakistan's s military has lost more soldiers fighting terrorists in the last two years than any other nation, and said the Obama administration should publicly give credit to its partner for its sacrifices and accomplishments. "If the United States were more respectful" of Pakistan's efforts, Haqqani said, "it would be so much easier for Pakistan to be America's partner." He said that Punjab governor Salman Taseer's assassination will give impetus for reforming the controversial blasphemy law. The Pakistan government cannot immediately roll back the blasphemy law as a message to Taseer's killer and his supporters because issues concerning religion have to be handled with sensitivity, he said. Still, Haqqani said he believed that Taseer's killing "will be an impetus for reform." He said those who supported extremists in Pakistan were a small minority in a nation of 180 million. The media, he said, have given undeserved attention to the tens of thousands of radical sympathisers who rallied in Karachi in support of Taseer's assassin. A bodyguard admitted killing Taseer over the governor's efforts to liberalise the nation's blasphemy law. "Let's be real here: 30,000 people marching in a city of 12 million is not really evidence of enormous support," Haqqani Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg's Washington bureau. "If these guys could actually get elected, they would.