Pakistan claims defeat of Taliban in Bajaer area

Reuters:

Pakistani forces have defeated Islamist militants in a strategically important region on the Afghan border and expect to clear militants out of other areas by the end of the year, a commander said on Saturday.

Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun regions, known as agencies, are sanctuaries for al Qaeda and the Taliban and a victory against them would provide relief for U.S. and NATO forces hard-pressed by insurgents in Afghanistan.

Major-General Tariq Khan, who is commanding military operations in five of the seven agencies, said his paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) had driven militants out of Bajaur, the smallest of the agencies but a major infiltration route into Afghanistan, after a six-month offensive.

"They have lost. They have lost their cohesion here," Khan told reporters on a trip arranged by the military to Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. "The resistance has collapsed."

He said his forces had also largely restored "a reasonable state of stability," in the four other agencies under his command.

"If you are asking me about five agencies ... I think somewhere by the end of the year or so we would, more or less, be over with the military operations," he said.

Khan said his forces planned to hand over control of Bajaur, the most northerly of the tribal areas and opposite the Afghan province of Kunar, to government authorities next week.

...

Hard-pressed militants led by an al Qaeda ally, Faqir Mohammad, this week declared a unilateral ceasefire in Bajaur. Khan said he rejected an offer of talks and went ahead with military operations.

Khan's strategy appears different to the government's in the neighboring Swat valley, where authorities struck a deal with Islamists, agreeing to enforce Islamic sharia law, after militants virtually took control of the region in recent months.

Authorities also sealed peace deals with militants in North and South Waziristan agencies, two major sanctuaries for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border where U.S. drones have carried out more than 20 missile strikes since September.

Western countries have expressed concerns over Pakistan's policy of making deals with the militants, fearing the strategy provides breathing space for militants to regroup and intensify their insurgency against Western forces in Afghanistan.

...

With the wimpy deals Pakistan has been making recently, skepticism seems in order. If the claims are true, then it should make it more difficult for the enemy to use sanctuaries in Pakistan to attack Afghanistan in this area. We should know in a few weeks.

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