Pakistani military struggles to root out Taliban
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.