Two senior Pakistani military officers claimed the Taliban has been defeated in the tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand, where the Taliban have held power for years.
Major General Tariq Khan, the Inspector General of the Frontier Corps, said the Taliban “lost” in Bajaur after an eight-month military operation.
“They have lost,” Tariq said during a press conference in Bajaur, the Associated Press reported. “Their resistance has broken down.”
The joint Army and frontier Corps operation destroyed Taliban command centers, bunkers, and fortifications, Tariq said. The roads in Bajaur are now under control of the military. Ninety-seven soldiers and paramilitary troops were killed during the operation and more than 400 were wounded. The military claims more than 1,800 Taliban have been killed, a claim disputed by the Taliban.
“We think we have secured this agency,” Tariq said, according to a report by the Times News Network. “The Taliban have lost their cohesion.”
The military plan on withdrawing some forces but will maintain a military presence, the general said.
In the neighboring tribal agency of Mohmand, Colonel Saif Ullah claimed the Taliban have been defeated and the region is “under the control of law enforcement agencies.”
Fighting spilled over into Mohmand as the fighting in Bajaur intensified last fall. The officer did not provide casualty numbers for the military or the Taliban.
In the past the military has claimed to have defeated the Taliban in other regions of the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, but the gains were short-lived. Temporary tactical victories in Khyber, Swat, Kohat, Arakzai, and North and South Waziristan were followed by the Taliban re-establishing control in these regions. In other instances, the military and government negotiated peace agreements with the Taliban, which only resulted in the Taliban consolidating power in these areas.
While the military claimed to have defeated the Taliban in Bajaur and Mohmand, the senior leaders in these tribal agencies remain at large.
Faqir Mohammed, a senior leader in Baitullah Mehsud’s Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and a close ally to al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri, has not been killed or captured during the offensive. Military officials claimed Faqir was killed in August 2008, but the leader later surfaced. Faqir established a parallel government in Bajaur, complete with sharia courts, recruiting centers and training camps, taxation, and security forces.
The US has conducted several airstrikes Bajaur, including two attacks that targeted Zawahiri and another that killed Abu Sulayman Jazairi, a senior Algerian operative for al Qaeda who was the terror groups’ operational commander tasked with planning attacks against the West.
Omar Khalid, the Taliban commander in Mohmand and a deputy of Baitullah’s Taliban movement, also remains at large. He is considered one of the most effective and powerful leaders in the tribal areas after Baitullah and Faqir.
Khalid gained prominence in Mohmand during the summer of 2007 after taking over a famous shrine and renaming it the Red Mosque, after the radical mosque in Islamabad whose followers attempted to impose sharia in the capital. He became the dominant Taliban commander in Mohmand in July 2008 after defeating the Shah Sahib group, a rival pro-Taliban terror group with ties to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Khalid declared sharia in Mohmand during the summer of 2008.