News / Asia

Pakistan Claims Progress Against Tribal Area Militants

A security official stands near oil tankers - carrying fuel to US-led NATO forces in the northwestern tribal region of Khyber - that were set ablaze by a bomb blast near the main border crossing of Torkham, on the outskirts of Landikotal in Afghanistan, J
A security official stands near oil tankers - carrying fuel to US-led NATO forces in the northwestern tribal region of Khyber - that were set ablaze by a bomb blast near the main border crossing of Torkham, on the outskirts of Landikotal in Afghanistan, J

Multimedia

Ayaz Gul

The United States has long maintained that Pakistan’s tribal territory is the main source of cross-border militant attacks into neighboring Afghanistan. But military commanders in Pakistan now are dismissing these charges, claiming they have secured most of the lawless region within the past three years. The military says its counterinsurgency campaign is now trying to uproot the remaining pockets of resistance.  

Tens of thousands of Pakistan's regular and paramilitary forces have been battling insurgents to secure the country’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Area, which consists of seven districts or “agencies.”

The counterinsurgency operations have targeted mainly militant bases in six of the seven tribal agencies and are said to have flushed out militants from most of the rugged mountainous territory.

Touting counterinsurgency campaign

Authorities flew a group of reporters to the front line near the Afghan border early this month to showcase the military gains.

Major General Nadir Zeb, the inspector general of Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps, said almost all of the tribal districts were under the control of Taliban and al-Qaida militants until three years ago.

“And now in 2011 there are places, like maybe a little portion in Mohmand, which God willing we will clear soon, a little portion in Khyber agency that is Teerah valley, and a little portion in Mamoonzai that is Orakzai agency and central Kurram," said Zeb. "Very thin belt is left. The rest is all cleared.”

Families returning home

Authorities say the restoration of government control has encouraged tens of thousands of families, displaced by the rise of militancy in the region and subsequent counterinsurgency operations, to return to their homes.

Tim Irwin of the United Nations refugees agency said many of those he talks to feel they will be able to resume their lives.

"Many of them were farmers and they were confident that they would be able to again go back to being a farmer," said Irwin. "So my impression was that they either had direct experience of perhaps having gone back to the region and seen for themselves, or they have enough information that they felt that they were making an informed decision."

One tribal elder in the Mohmand district said extremists linked to the Taliban had taken the entire population hostage and were forcing young men to join their ranks. But life, he said, is back to normal for his community.  

And several hundred children are back in this school near the front lines - just a few kilometers from the Afghan border - once used as a militant stronghold.

Anti-militant campaign questioned

Despite being allies in the anti-terror war, American and NATO-led forces have long accused Pakistan's military of not preventing cross-border militant raids into Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities say they have "more or less" addressed those concerns. In turn, they now charge that since NATO forces have left their outposts in Afghanistan's Kunnar and Nuristan provinces, fugitive Pakistani militants and Afghan insurgents have been able to regroup and try to stage a comeback.

"That is where our main problem is, because we have carried out so many operations, but each time we find again this thing is coming up because of the Kunnar province and that is where they concentrate and come back," said Zeb.

Counterterrorism officials in Washington recently questioned the effectiveness of the Pakistan military’s anti-militant campaign, especially its ability to hold areas it has regained. Even critics at home are skeptical about the claims of battlefield progress in the traditionally hostile tribal region.

Ayaz Wazir, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Kabul, said, "Tell me where have you pacified the area? Mohmand is still burning, South Waziristan is still burning. Bajaur is still burning, Orakzai is still burning.”

Pakistani army commanders, however, dispute the criticism. Army spokesman General Athar Abbas said, "We are going very cautiously. We want to be very surefooted that when we establish a successful military operation’s control, then the people should support that, the people should take the ownership of that, and therefore you see sort of cautious and a slow pace in the operation.”

While Pakistan points to its success in six of the border districts, the United States and many independent observers see the remaining North Waziristan tribal territory as a major threat to efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Troublesome region

North Waziristan is home to the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which is believed to be organizing deadly cross-border raids on U.S and NATO forces. The Haqqani network - rumored to have ties to Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI - apparently is not hostile to the Pakistani army. But the army denies that it has gone easy on the group.

“That is not true and this is completely a false allegation," said Abbas.

The military points out it has more than 30,000 troops in North Waziristan. It claims that the impression the region is beyond the control of the state - and has become a center of terrorism - is “mere exaggeration.”

“... they do have some militants in these areas, they do have some pockets in these areas of our border," said Abbas. "But then the major problem is in Afghanistan.”

But while Pakistan is apparently reluctant to go after the militant bases in North Waziristan, suspected U.S drone strikes have intensified in the border region, killing dozens of insurgents, including high-profile al-Qaida figures.

Pakistan’s latest claims of progress in the war against terror networks on its soil come weeks after a secret U.S helicopter raid located and killed fugitive al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

Unresolved trust issues

While the country’s civilian and military leaders deny any link to bin Laden’s hideout, suspicions remain that “rogue elements” within the Pakistani security establishment have ties to al-Qaida operatives.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made that evident during a trip to Islamabad late last month.

“I harbor no illusions about the difficulties ahead, nor do I leave here misinformed about the trust which still needs to be rebuilt between our two militaries,” he said.

As the United States prepares to begin a phased withdrawal of its combat troops from Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders believe Pakistan’s counter-insurgency efforts in the border region are vital for a smooth transfer of security responsibility from NATO to Afghan forces. For now, though, the issue of going after militants in North Waziristan remains a source of friction between Washington and Islamabad.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid