While the U.S. military is not directly involved in the Pakistan offensive on the ground they are reportedly monitoring the situation closely and sharing intelligence. There is a U.S. combat brigade of about 3,500 soldiers operating in the provinces on the Afghan side of the border across from South Waziristan but the U.S. says they are not actively assisting on the Pakistani side of the border.
Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was in Islamabad on Monday and met with Kayani and with the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Abbas said troops are encountering fierce fighting in some of the targeted areas. The military says it is facing an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 local militants and 1,500 foreign fighters in what can be extremely unforgiving and treacherous terrain. Pakistan experts suggest the element of foreign fighters differentiates this campaign from the one the military fought this past summer against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Swat Valley.
"The military in Pakistan understands that they are likely to encounter very fierce resistance from these so-called foreign fighters - Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs and even some Chinese Uighurs," said Farzana Shaikh, an associate fellow with the London think tank Chatham House. "[These are] fighters who the army believes may be even more ideologically driven and altogether tougher nuts to crack than local tribesman with whom of course the army has a long history of doing deals."
The Associated Press reported that deals recently made with local Taliban renegades Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, are helping the Pakistani military move more freely in the region during this operation.
In exchange, the army will ease patrols and bombings in the lands controlled by Nazir and Bahadur, two Pakistani intelligence officials based in the region, told the AP.
Abbas said that within the first 72 hours, Pakistani troops had managed to win control of two key areas: the northern Sherwangi area and what was described as "important tactical heights" overlooking the town of Kotkai. The town is known to be the hometown of the Taliban in Pakistan leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. Gen. Abbas said it is also home to Qari Hussein, a Taliban leader notorious for training suicide bombers. He said 60 militants had been killed and six Pakistani troops in the offensive in the first 24 hours of fighting.
Numbers are difficult to independently verify due to a total media blackout on the ground.
"We know how to fight this war and defeat the enemy with the minimum loss of our men," a Taliban spokesman told the AP from an undisclosed location on Tuesday. "We will defend our land until our last man and our last drop of blood. This is a war bound to end in the defeat of the Pakistan army."
In other parts of the country the Pakistani police are conducting raids to clamp down on militant operations after a spate of recent attacks. In an apparent response to the offensive, on Tuesday in two separate attacks at Islamabad University at least four people were killed. At least half the student population is made up of women and hundreds are foreigners. The targets were a woman's café and a faculty building. The school receives funding from Saudi Arabia and is known to have both radical teachers and students make up a part of its community.