The New York Times reports:
After a six-month campaign, the Pakistani military is claiming victory over the Taliban in Bajaur, a northern sliver of the tribal areas, saying the militants have suffered heavy losses and have been pushed over the border into Afghanistan.Unfortunately, as the Times duly notes, the Pakistanis are alone in their assessment:
Residents and Western military experts, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the political situation, said it was likely that rather than being finally uprooted from this slice of Bajaur and a nearby stronghold in Loe Sam, the bulk of the Taliban forces had retreated to mountain enclaves, waiting to return, as they have so often, when the military eases off.
Idrees Khan, a tribal elder from the area, told the Times why he is reluctant to return to home:
His experience is apparently not unique, either:
He left with bad feelings and remains bitter, he said. The family tried under tremendous odds to stave off the Taliban in December, he said. When the militants attacked one of their houses near the market and his brother called for help, the army showed up late and was of little help, he said. A helicopter gunship came after the Taliban had fled, but it shot at the family house anyway, severely damaging it, he said.
Several residents of Inayat Kalay said they were nervous about security because they had tried to raise a volunteer army against the Taliban last fall, but had received inadequate backing from the authorities.
...He said he was reluctant to return, in part because he had no confidence in the Pakistani government. “When we returned in November they shelled us,” he said. “We don’t want to repeat that.”
The Pakistani military claims that some 1,600 militants have been killed in the six-month campaign. However, as the Times report continues, neither residents or Western military official believe this claim as Pakistan has provided no real evidence.
Moreover, as Mr. Khan pointed out to the Times reporter, the Taliban in the area seem to have come through the government's assault relatively unscathed. The main compound of Fakir Mohammed, the Taliban's main man in Bajaur, remains standing amid the rubble of everyone else's property. “Why don’t they hit his house?” as Mr. Khan inquired of the reporter.