Taliban regrouping in Orakzai, Kurram: NYT
Friday, November 27, 2009
* Villagers report influx of Taliban fleeing military offensive in SWA * Armed Taliban set up checkpoints, patrolling Kurram, Orakzai
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: The Taliban are fleeing the military offensive in South Waziristan Agency for nearby districts and setting up new strongholds, the New York Times said on Thursday, suggesting that the terrorists would regroup and continue to threaten the country.
The NYT said the Taliban had escaped mainly to Kurram and Orakzai agencies, currently outside the area of the military operation.
Quoting villagers, the paper said the military lacked significant presence in these areas, allowing the Taliban “an ideal environment” to regroup. The newly-arrived Taliban have reportedly terrorised local Pashtuns and “replenished their coffers through kidnappings and robberies, villagers told the NYT in Kurram and Orakzai.
“With AK-47s and rocket launchers slung over their shoulders, the militants have begun patrols through the new territory and have set up checkpoints,” the paper said.
“They come to our houses and terrorise us,” Fareedullah, a student in Weedara in central Kurram told the paper. “They are abducting our elders and stealing our cars. We have no way of rising up against them, and there’s no government here to help us ... Kurram is in trouble.”
The military says that after five weeks of onslaught, it is in the final stages of crushing the Taliban in South Waziristan.
At the onset of the assault, the military estimated resistance from up to 10,000 battle-hardened Taliban, but so far, the army has put the number of Taliban killed at 500.
Still, military commanders say they are ahead of schedule and plan to conclude the offensive before the winter sets in.
Military leaders say dislodging the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their strongholds would be enough to “neutralise” them.
“Once dislodged, they will be disorganised,” Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said. “Their actions will not have that kind of coordination which was displayed when they were attacking our cities and towns.”
Experts say the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists fled South Waziristan easily because the government and the military announced the planned offensive in the agency weeks before troops actually moved in.
“The strategy has been bad,” Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst based in Islamabad, told NYT. “You don’t carry out operations after making such announcements. This area gives them huge space for mobility. So when crunch time comes, they can disperse to safer places, regroup, reorganise and hit the state somewhere else.”