Taliban hold Pak town hostage

Times:

The thunder of artillery fire echoed in the distance. Helicopters hovered above the mountain where the Taleban fighters were making their last stand. Streams of rickety buses, vans and trucks packed with refugees sped along the road.

The new front line in the war against the militants cuts through the village of Chinglai in northwest Pakistan. Yesterday its dusty streets were all but deserted, with just a few old men lingering outside their shattered homes. On Wednesday night the Taleban blew up the police station, forcing frightened residents to flee. “My entire family has left and I am the only one here to look after the house,” said Sher Zaman, a farmer.

About 30,000 people are estimated to have fled Buner since the Pakistani Army started its offensive against the Taleban in response to the insurgent advance to within 65 miles of Islamabad, the capital. After moving into the district four weeks ago the Taleban established a reign of terror, killing anyone opposing them. They occupied properties, destroyed police stations and took away young men to training camps in the Swat Valley.

The Taleban’s rapid push from Swat, where the Government had struck a peace deal with the Islamists and agreed to the introduction of Sharia, came as a wake-up call for Islamabad. Spurred on by scathing criticism from the US, which fears for the stability of its nuclear-armed ally in the battle against the fundamentalists, the Army is at last engaging the militants.

Yesterday government troops drove them out of the Ambela Pass leading over the mountains into Buner and were inching north. Soldiers opened fire on four suspected suicide car bombers who drove towards them near the pass, a military spokesman said. Two vehicles exploded while the other two managed to drive away. On Wednesday the troops recaptured Dagar, the main town of the district, but were facing stiff resistance from the insurgents elsewhere.

Major-General Athar Abbas, the chief military spokesman, said that the militants were holding the population of the town of Sultanwas hostage. “Nobody is being allowed to move out of the town,” he said. The general hoped that the military operation in Buner would be completed in a week, though some analysts thought that optimistic.

...

It is not just optimistic, it shows a lack of comprehension of counterinsurgency warfare where you have to clear and hold the space and deny it to the enemy. At this point the Pakistan operation has been mostly strum and drang that is more like major combat operations than going after insurgents. There is little reason for optimism in this story despite what teh Pakistan army thinks it is accomplishing.

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