The Pakistani military showed off its previously declaring victory in the tiny Bajaur Agency today, showing off a captured (and largely destroyed) marketplace and declaring “the resistance has been broken down,” providing a rare upnote to the military’s ongoing, and largely unsuccessful counter-insurgency campaign along the Afghanistan border. But are their gains in the wake of a unilateral TTP ceasefire an enduring victory brought about by months of offensives that have turned the tiny agency into one of the worst refugee crises on the planet, or another brief lull in a seemingly endless parade of battles?
The refugees in and around Peshawar seem unwilling to bet on the former. By and large, they’re staying right where they’re at, in spite of the deplorable conditions in the IDP camps and despite military claims that they’ve established control. Then many of these refugees were around six months ago when the government told them it was safe to return to Bajaur.
Western analysts are pointing to the Bajaur calm as a unique victory, and the Pakistani military seems perfectly happy to run with that narrative. But so long as a significant portion of the population remains in camps near Peshawar, Bajaur can hardly be said to have returned to normal.