Underscoring the dubious accomplishments of Pakistan’s various military offensives, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, the top commander of last year’s Swat Valley offensive, says that most of the leadership of the Swat Valley Taliban has simply relocated to Karachi and South Waziristan since the invasion.
Pakistan launched the offensive in the Swat Valley and surrounding area in late April, following condemnations of a peace effort by US officials. The offensive displaced millions of civilian, did damage to the once tourist hotspot that will take years to repair, but netted few significant leaders of the small Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) auxiliary.
It is a story repeatedly retold in Pakistan. The 2008 Bajaur Agency invasion ended roughly the same way, driving the TTP there into Swat and South Waziristan. The current offensive in South Waziristan is following this trend as well, with military officials lauding the offensive as a great victory, but watching as the militants relocate to Orakzai, Buner and other regions.
Bajaur paved the way for Swat Valley, and South Waziristan has laid the groundwork for growing violence in Bannu and Orakzai. Yet despite the Pakistani military committing around 200,000 soldiers to the wars along its northern border with Afghanistan, it has managed to capture few TTP leaders and seems to only shuffle them to new regions, sparking new invasions which will do the same thing.
What is the endgame for this? Near as can be told there isn’t one. Seven months after declaring Bajaur “Taliban-Free” the TTP returned, sparking more attacks and fears that the military will eventually have to launch another new invasion.