Some â€œindependent observersâ€, it said, believe the Pakistani army might be exaggerating success and that some of the Taliban could have slipped out of the area.
Communications to affected areas of Swat and surrounding areas have been cut, and the army is not allowing journalists into the conflict zone. To assess what is going on, military analysts are looking at the tactics and results achieved in military operations in Bajaur Agency. That operation began last year and the army said the tribal agency was cleansed of Taliban three months ago.
Shaun Gregory, head of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at the University of Bradford, said the armyâ€™s tactics in Swat and adjacent areas mirror the so-called standoff tactics used in Bajaur.
Gaps: â€œWhen I look at whatâ€™s going on in Buner, in Dir, in Swat, it looks to me pretty similar. Theyâ€™re using a lot of artillery, a lot of helicopters, a lot of air strikes, they have more troops on the ground, and I know there has been quite heavy fighting in one or two areasâ€¦ But, broadly, youâ€™re seeing the same thing â€“ a lot of towns and villages destroyed, significant population driven out. It therefore does not surprise me that they have left gaps, if you like, in terms of what theyâ€™re trying to do,â€ Gregory said.
United States Army War Collegeâ€™s Larry Goodson said the fleeing Taliban did not appear to be heading to the Tribal Areas. â€œThe exits were allowed to be open and guys were able to filter on out. And I think weâ€™re seeing the same out of Swat right now. And there have been rumours that not all of that filtering out has been back out to the west to Bajaur and Dir and those areas, Mohmand, but have been in some parts east and north.â€ Heading east would place at least some of the Taliban fighters in areas adjoining the Karakoram Highway (KKH).
Gregory said Chinese concern about a possible threat to the highway was as much of a factor in Islamabadâ€™s decision to take on the Taliban in Swat as was US pressure.
â€œIf they were to interdict the KKH,â€ Larry Goodson said, â€œthe Pakistani government would then have to engage them much more seriously than they had done previously in Waziristan Agency or Swat or Bajaur.â€
via Daily Times, May 24 2009,