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Stalemate in Swat

4:42 PM, Nov 29, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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pakistan-swat-taliban-sword-11052007.jpgTaliban in Swat celebrate in the streets.
Click to here to view more images from the BBC.

More than a month after the Taliban took over the settled district of Swat, once the most visited tourist spot in Pakistan, the Pakistani Army has yet to dislodge the Taliban from the scenic valley. The Pakistani military, beset by problems with poor morale and a poor counterinsurgency strategy, have made few gains since launching their ground offensive after weeks of bombarding civilian centers.

Asia Times's Syed Saleem Shahzad, who closely follows the Taliban movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, states the vaunted Pakistani Army is no closer to defeating the Taliban than when it started offensive operations.

Intensified military operations over the past 10 days in the Swat Valley have not yielded any significant results. The army did succeed in recapturing a few districts but was in no position to force the militants' surrender. This means the army will not be able to consolidate its gains for any prolonged period in the valley - the militants will be back.

Shahzad also claims the Taliban seek to keep the Pakistani military from conducting operation along the tribal regions on the border, where al Qaeda and the Taliban have established training camps throughout the region and openly rule the tribal agencies.

The aim of the militants to date has been to engage the Pakistani security forces in the Swat Valley, forcing them to reduce their presence on the border. This in turn has allowed militants to cross freely into and out of Afghanistan in support of the Taliban's insurgency there.

The Pakistani military is losing an insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal regions (see "The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan" at The Long War Journal and "Is the NWFP Slipping out of Pakistan's Control?" at The Jamestown Foundation for more details.)

Shahzad states the appointment of General Kiyani, Musharraf's successor as chief of staff of the Pakistani army, has increased the likelihood the Pakistani military will cut a deal with the Taliban in the long run. While Kiyani is not viewed as sympathetic to the Islamists, he will be under great pressure from the Pakistani military to halt the fighting. This will only embolden the Taliban and create a buffer for al Qaeda to continue cranking out terrorists to fight in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iraq and throughout the Middle East.