Pakistan wins in "The Battle of Bajaur"!


Dec 15, 2008
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The Pakistani army is claiming victory against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in a key area bordering Afghanistan.
The army says it has flushed the militants out of the tribal region of Bajaur, where it has been fighting since August 2008.
The Taliban nerve centre was in an area called Damadola, in the shadow of snow-capped peaks. The Pakistani flag now flies here, for the first time in the history of the state.
The militants had planned on a long stay. They dug in, quite literally, carving about 150 caves and tunnels deep into the rock. We were given access to this labyrinth, which the army believes might have taken five or six years to build.
Crouching low to enter the complex we found traces of the fighters who fled in haste. At the entrance to one cave there was a pair of training shoes.

Our correspondent in the sophisticated network of caves
Further inside, the floor was lined with abandoned bedding. A few fighters had etched their names into the rock.
A steep winding tunnel led from this cave to a foxhole, where militants could have fired on anyone approaching.
The cave complex might have sheltered the al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Pakistani and American intelligence officials believe he was in the area in the past. He was the target of an American drone strike in Damadola in January 2006.
'Not effective'
Pakistani troops now stand guard over the headquarters where the militants once trained, and networked, and even had a playing field.

Maj Gen Khan says the militants have lost the support of the locals
The general in charge insists they have been defeated, though he admits that up to 40% of the Taliban leadership managed to flee - including top commander Fakir Mohammad. (Failing to arrest the top leaders has been a hallmark of recent offensives).
"I would give a rough estimate that about 25% must have gone across the border, another 10% or 15% might have melted back into areas of Swat where they'd come from," said Maj Gen Tarik Khan, head of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps.
"But the thing is they have lost their support. They've lost the terrain where they could operate and they've lost the population, who they were coercing. So they are not really effective anymore."
The army has claimed victory here before, in February of last year, only for the militants to re-emerge and fight another day.
Gen Khan says the army will be watching out, in case they try to come back.
"They're going to be looking over the shoulder," he said.
Pleas for jobs
With Bajaur subdued, Pakistani forces wants to see a lot more action across the border in Afghanistan.

"They need to do much more," said Abid Mumtaz, who led the Bajaur operation.
"What we have done up till now they need to replicate on their side. More presence of troops, more control of the area and more presence of the state of Afghanistan in those areas, where at this point in time there is virtually none."
Army commanders are getting a hero's welcome in Bajaur.
At a meeting of tribal elders they were greeted with handshakes and embraces.
Bearded local leaders thanked them for the sacrifices they had made, but they also presented the military with a long list of demands - including help rebuilding roads, bridges and homes damaged by the army during the fight.
Most of all they want jobs. They say employment is the most effective weapon against the Taliban.
"When people don't have work, and they don't have amenities, when they are dissatisfied with their lives, then, of course, they will adopt another way," said Abdul Sattar, a tribal elder.
"If they get these things they will be busy, they will be working, and they won't go towards other ways".
Strategic shift
But locals are siding with the army, for now. Hundreds of tribesmen danced by the roadside, when army chiefs arrived. It was part celebration, part show-of-force.
The tribesmen were holding their machine guns aloft. They say they'll fight the militants themselves if they try to return.
They have formed a lashkar, or militia, led by five battle-ready locals, who have lost loved ones to the Taliban, and have been targeted themselves.
The army will be relying on the help of men like this to keep the Taliban at bay. The military has already set its sights on neighbouring parts of the lawless tribal belt, and the next stage of the fight.
The White House is watching the army carefully, and we understand that officials are happy with the robust action they see.
A senior administration official has told the BBC that there has been "a significant strategic shift in Pakistan in the past nine months", with the military taking the fight to the Pakistani Taliban.
There is also satisfaction at the recent surprise arrests of several senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban.
Privately, army commanders here admit they could be battling the militants for years to come.
"We let them take root for years," one said, "and it will take years to uproot them."

Great Job Pakistan!
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