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 Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs