Sep 23 at 11:11am by David Tate
The analysis coming out of media outlets in the US and Pakistan say the ongoing, all-out battle in Bajour Agency, Pakistan, could very well be the crux of the Pakistani army’s fight against that country’s Islamic militantcy.
The fight is so important to all parties involved that the Taliban are moving forces from Afghanistan to reinforce fighters in Bajour, particularly from Kunar Province. To the Pakistani government, and the Americans closely watching, the fight for Bajour may be the tipping point where either the Pakistani Army or the militants will gain strength, or lose clout, across Pakistan’s entire tribal agency.
In recent days, Pakistani forces, backed by tanks and artillery, have slowly started pushing toward Lowi Sam, just northwest of Khar. The troops are fending off hit and run attacks and roadside bombs as they go. The fighting has killed up to 10 militants since Sunday and has led to the discovery of multiple complex tunnel and trench networks that have left the Pakistanis impressed.
According to Pakistani media group, Dawn, a senior Pakistani official says, “They have good weaponry and a better communication system (than ours). Even the sniper rifles they use are better than some of ours. Their tactics are mind-boggling and they have defences that would take us days to build. It does not look as though we are fighting a rag-tag militia; they are fighting like an organized force.”
Since the Bajour offensive began August 6, varied reports say between 100 and 700 militants have been killed, with the higher number more regularly reported. As many as 300,000 civilians have also been displaced by the fighting.
The offensive marks the first time in which regular Pakistani forces (a brigade) have been integrated with Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. Some say the move is an indication of a new found determination to combat internal terrorism; a determination that has taken on an increased zeal since the deadly bombing of the Islamabad Marriot which claimed more than 50 lives. Various reports speculate the bombing was in response to the government offensive in Bajour.
According to at least one report, the tribes of Bajour also seem to be taking sides against the militants, including the Mamond tribe, which is considered to be a base foundation for the militants. The defection of the Mamond tribe to the government side could mark a significant turn in the battle.
The Salarzai tribe, already organized against the militants, continue to attack pro-Taliban elements which include the burning of homes connected to the Taliban as recently as September 22. A third tribe, the Untmankhel, have also raised forces to combat the militants.
Bajour Agency is a major stronghold for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, most aligned with Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The area is also regularly named as a hiding spot for Osama bin Laden.
9/24 1510 – Edited one paragraph for clarity.