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500 tribal police quit in Khyber


A flag of the Khyber-based Lashkar-e-Islam painted on a wall in Bara.

While the Pakistani military operation in Swat is showing signs of progress, the recently launched Khyber operation against the Lashkar-e-Islam is showing far less promise. Despite the military's claims of routing the Lashkar-e-Islam (nearly 200 fighters have been reported killed during 10 days of operations), the local tribal police are deserting in droves. Geo News reports:

Political Agency of Khyber Agency Friday confirmed that at least 500 personnel of Khasadar force abandoned their duties for fear of extremists.

According to Geo News correspondent, Political Agent Tariq Hayat said the Khasadars who do not report on duty by tomorrow would be dismissed from service.

The Khasadars were the border policemen hit in the Aug. 27 suicide attack at the Torkham crossing in Khyber; 22 policemen were killed in the attack. The mass desertion of the local policemen tells far more about the security situation in Khyber than the unconfirmed numbers of Lashkar-e-Islam fighters reported killed during air and artillery strikes.

Also, it is becoming clear that the Khyber operation, like past operations, may be punitive. The military has declared victory and is heading home, while security in the strategic tribal agency that hosts NATO's main supply route to Afghanistan is being turned over to the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

Tariq said important targets in Bara operation have been achieved; subsequently, the army has left Bara and Frontier Corps contingents have taken over.