Captured Pakistani soldiers. BBC photo. Click to here to view more images.
The situation in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province has grown markedly worse over the past 24 hours. One day after the military claimed to have killed 70 Taliban in Swat and denied its soldiers were captured, the Taliban paraded 48 captured paramilitary soldiers from the Frontier Corps.
The captured soldiers surrendered after being surrounded by a large formation of Taliban troops. Upwards of 700 troops surrounded a hilltop in Swat, Dawn reported. The soldiers were airdropped on the hilltop days ago and have been besieged since then. The BBC stated an additional 100 Pakistani troops have deserted in Swat.
Last week, Indian intelligence reported the Pakistani military is widely demoralized by the fighting, as well as the abductions and beheadings at the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban attacks against government troops outside the Northwest Frontier Province have also eroded the morale of the Pakistani soldier. Just yesterday, a Taliban suicide bomber struck bus carrying air force personnel in Punjab province, killing at least eight. The fighting in Swat began after a suicide bomber attacked a convoy in the district, killing 30.
The BBC also reported the Taliban is openly in control of strategic regions of Swat. “A major business centre on the road that connects Mingora with the tourist resorts of Madyan, Miandam and Kalam, Charbagh is in Taleban control,” the BBC noted. “Taleban militants were seen directing the traffic on the road. There was an air of jubilation among them after the news that Khwazakhela, another important town 27km north of Mingora, had fallen to the militants. One of them was distributing sweets to commuters on the road.”
Pakistani military statements concerning the events in the Northwest Frontier Province have not been reliable. Yesterday the Pakistani military denied the soldiers were captured. “But the forces were well-entrenched and well-positioned and they responded with full force, inflicting massive casualties on the militants,” said provincial Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir. “Our reports are that they suffered between 60 and 70 casualties. They were literally running down the hill.” The Taliban claimed it lost seven fighters.
When over 300 Pakistani soldiers were captured in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military denied they were captured for several days until the fact could no longer be hidden. The military has also deflated the number of casualties taken in the Northwest Frontier Province.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.