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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.