Pak­istani mil­i­tary strug­gles to root out Tal­iban

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Jane Perlez and Eric Sch­mitt

RAZ­MAK, Pak­istan — In an of­fen­sive nearly 2 years old, the Pak­istani Army has been fight­ing Tal­iban mil­i­tants in the nation’s tribal ar­eas and be­yond, and like the United States across the border in Afghanistan, it is find­ing coun­terin­sur­gency war­fare tougher and more costly than an­tic­i­pated.

Months af­ter declar­ing vic­tory on sev­eral im­por­tant fronts, in­clud­ing in South Waziris­tan and the Swat Val­ley, the army has been forced to re­open cam­paigns af­ter mil­i­tants seeped back in. Sol­diers are killed and wounded al­most daily.

The army has made the most gains in Swat, where bazaars are bustling and some tourist ho­tels have re­opened. But few schools have been re­built, and res­i­dents com­plain of slow com­pen­sa­tion for ru­ined homes.

Much like the chal­lenge fac­ing Amer­i­can and NATO forces in Afghanistan, an ab­sence of Pak­istani civil­ian author­ity has made it nearly im­pos­si­ble to con­sol­i­date mil­i­tary gains. While elim­i­nat­ing some Pak­istani Tal­iban in­sur­gents, the long cam­paign has dis­persed many other fight­ers.

As the cam­paign drags on, the Pak­istani mil­i­tary re­lies more and more on Amer­i­can­sup­plied F-16 fighter jets and Co­bra heli­copter gun­ships to bomb mil­i­tants in ar­eas of treach­er­ous ter­rain, in­creas­ing civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, ac­cord­ing to re­porters and Pak­istani of­fi­cials in the tribal ar­eas.

More than 2,000 troops have been killed in the past two years fight­ing the Pak­istani Tal­iban, the mil­i­tary says. In South Waziris­tan, Tal­iban fight­ers reg­u­larly hit Pak­istani sol­diers, army of­fi­cers said. The Tal­iban use guer­rilla tac­tics — sniper fire, road­side bombs, am­bushes — and their knowl­edge of the ter­rain to great ad­van­tage, they said.

“The ter­ror­ists have been raised here; they can find their way around blind,” Maj. Shahzad Saleem said.

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