Thursday, January 17, 2008

Taliban Swatted from Swat Valley by Pak Army

In Pakistan, not all is bad news, doom, and embarrassment for the government and military of President Pervez Musharraf. Some British era forts have been given up in the south, but al-Qaida/Taliban forces have been pushed out of the northern territories.

Militants overran Sararogha Fort, a small roadside garrison manned by 42 soldiers of the Frontier Constabulary. Seven soldiers are known to have been killed before the garrison was overwhelmed by the 200 attackers approaching from four sides, breaching the walls with rocket fire. Fifteen soldiers retreated to another fort 10 miles away and 15 others are missing. The military says the Constabulary killed 50 militants before abandoning the garrison.

Another post was evacuated without a fight after Taliban forces warned them to flee or face attack. These were the same Taliban that attacked Sararogha Fort a day earlier. Having only 35-40 soldiers and being aware of the previous days' action, the Constabulary commander retreated to a nearby town.

Both garrisons are in the Mehsud area of S. Waziristan where the fighters are loyal to Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud is believed to be the mastermind behind the murder of Benazir Bhutto on Dec 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi and the deaths of more than 450 people in 19 suicide bombings over the past three months.

Farther north, Pakistani troops have pushed Taliban forces from the Swat Valley into mountainous area completely covered in snow. Operation "Rah E Haq" has re-established "the writ of the government and clean[ed] the area [of] miscreants has been successfully accomplished," said General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General Military Operations.

Of the "miscreants" encountered in the operation, ten were killed and 615 were arrested, 100 of whom were being investigated while the balance were released. Nine civilians were also killed in the fighting and 35 security forces "embraced shahadat" (they're dead.) Many more miscreants fled to join other Taliban forces elsewhere in Pakistan, perhaps even in S. Wazirstan where the Pak Army was so ruefully humiliated, according to the MSM, when they tactically retreated.

The folks living in the area, said the General, were getting aid from the Army under the "Quick Impact Program" and a compensation package was also being discussed. Injured civilians were being provided free medical services and the families of the killed were also given proper care. The locals, in turn, were cooperating with the Army. While the Taliban had been in control of the area, schools for girls had been shut and those for boys were restricted to religious lessons only. They had carried out many beheadings, murders, and burned homes. After the Armies arrival, a dozen FM radio stations had been returned to airwaves providing needed news, information, and entertainment which had been banned under the Taliban.

All in all, the Pak Army has one quite well. They have pushed the Taliban miscreants from N. Pakistan into tight pockets of S. Waziristan along the Afghan border. I suspect the next series of operations will be in that area where Waziri elders ordered thousands of fighters to gather to hunt down al-Qaida linked militants who had slaughtered nine tribal elders.

Tribal chief Malik Ghaffar ordered at a jirga, "One man from each house should come to Wana with a gun at 10am on Thursday to plan our defence and act against those who are responsible for disorder." Residents told the Pak newspaper Dawn that announcements were made over public address systems that all Mehmud tribemen should get out of Wana or be killed.

Maulvi Nazir, who forced out hundreds of Uzbecs last year in bloody clashes, blamed al-Qaida/Taliban commander and leader of the rival Mehmud clan, Baitullah Mehsud, for killing the nine tribal elders.

With the public in the north and Waziri tribesmen in the southern autonomous region backing away from the al-Qaida/Taliban axis and joining the Pakistani Army to rid the country of the miscreants, perhaps some form of victory may be not far off.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

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