A top Pakistani general claimed recently that the Taliban have been driven from a region in the northwest that has served as an al Qaeda and Taliban haven for the past nine years.
The Taliban and al Qaeda have been defeated in the tribal agency Bajaur after a two-month-long offensive that began in January, according to Major General Tariq Khan, the commander of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps.
“The militant command and control centres and their caches have been dismantled or captured,” Khan told The Sunday Times.
“We have now cleared this area till the Afghan border, military operation is in its final stages and policing has been started,” Khan told Dawn.
Khan claimed that the Taliban in Bajaur have suffered significant casualties over the past two months, with 75 fighters killed and 76 detained, and another 364 fighters who surrendered. He also claimed that the Taliban have lost more than 2,200 fighters in combat in Bajaur since 2008, while the military have lost only 149 troops there.
The Taliban and al Qaeda were dug into a series of caves and ridges in the Damadola region in Bajaur, Khan told Dawn. He also declared that the Taliban leadership has been smashed in Bajaur and has fled.
“There were Egyptians, Uzbeks, Chechens and Afghans killed in the operation,” Khan said. “Al Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex.”
“Now their leadership does not exist. Twenty-five per cent of them have gone to Afghanistan, 15 per cent have gone back to Swat and other native areas,” Khan stated.
Major General Khan’s claim that the Taliban have been crushed in Bajaur comes one year and one day after he previously claimed the Taliban were defeated there.
“They have lost,” Khan told reporters on March 1, 2009, after a brutal campaign that began in August 2008 was declared to have ended. “Their resistance has broken down. We think we have secured this agency. The Taliban have lost their cohesion.”
But the Taliban continued to exert control in Bajaur during 2009, killing tribal leaders who dared to work with the Pakistani government and military.
Taliban “no longer significant” in the tribal areas: Khan
Major General Khan also claimed in his recent interview that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has been defeated throughout the tribal areas after a series of operations that began in October 2009 in South Waziristan.
“The kind of hits the leadership has taken, the casualties they have taken, the TTP [the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] is no longer significant,” he told The Sunday Times. “It has ended as a cohesive force. It doesn’t exist any more as an umbrella organization that can influence militancy anywhere.”
The Pakistani Taliban have suffered setbacks in Pakistan’s northwest over the past year, primarily in Swat, a settled district outside of the tribal areas, when the military launched a major operation in April 2009. The military also claimed to have successfully driven out the Taliban in the Mehsud tribal areas following the operation that began in October 2009.
But the Taliban maintain a significant presence in the tribal areas, including in the Wazir regions in the western areas of South Waziristan, and in North Waziristan, Arakzai, Khyber, Kurram, and Mohmand. The Taliban in the Mehsud tribal areas in the eastern region of South Waziristan conducted a tactical retreat and resettled in North Waziristan, Arakzai, Kurram, and Khyber.
The military has launched limited operations in Kurram and Khyber over the past four months but has failed to dislodge the Taliban. Khan, who claimed in October 2009 that operations in Khyber were successful in defeating the Taliban, said today that a new operation would be launched there as well as in neighboring Arakzai.
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