The Pakistani military’s offensive in Bajaur, started in early August, shows no signs of ending. And with the military already claiming 1,000 killed and 2,000 wounded militants in the fighting in the tiny border agency, the supply of militants shows no signs of waning.
Yesterday, militants launched attacks on three separate military camps in Bajaur. Where are they finding manpower to launch counter-attacks this deep into the conflict? According to Pakistani government sources, militants and supplies are flowing across the border into Bajaur from Afghanistan.
The fighting in Bajaur has displaced as many as 400,000 civilians, two thirds of the populace in the most recent census. The UN’s refugee agency reports that an additional 20,000 have fled into Afghanistan. Tribal elders have been trying to broker a cease-fire in the agency for over a month now, and even though both sides announced separate cease-fires for Ramadan, the fighting has continued unabated. Displaced Bajauris have accused both sides of inflicting collateral damage on the civilian populace.
Pakistan’s army has reportedly been encouraging the remaining civilians to take up arms against the militants as well. The attempt has had mixed success, however, given the sentiment raised by increased US strikes in the border areas. Pakistani government representative Shafir Ullah says the populace is largely against the Taliban, “but if Americans continue their activities in the tribal areas, these people will become sympathizers of Taliban.”
The United States and Afghan governments have been pressuring Pakistan for years to stop infiltration across mountainous, desolate 1,500 mile long border. Pakistan has insisted that there is very little they can do to seal such a long border. This has led the United States toward a strategy of increasing unilateral strikes across the border into Pakistan to target militants in North and South Waziristan.
With Pakistan’s military bogged down in Bajaur and the rest of the Swat Valley in conflicts with militants, there is very little they can do to tackle America’s perceived problems in Waziristan, and with international forces struggling in Afghanistan seven years into that war, there is very little they can do to stem the flow of fighters and equipment into Bajaur. In the end, all either military seems able to do is predict decisive victory in the long term and watch as relations between the two countries continue to erode as they focus their attention on different battles.