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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More