Achievements of operation Rah-e-Nijat
January 29, 2010 Leave a comment
Asif Haroon Raja | Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) established by Baitullah Mehsud in December 2007 with the help of his foreign mentors spread its tentacles in whole of FATA and some settled parts of NWFP including Fazlullah led TNSM in Swat and also gained access in South Punjab . Swat Taliban lost public support when they refused to de-weaponise and abide by Swat agreement signed in February 2009 and let Nizam-e-Adl get introduced. Occupation of Lower Dir and Buner led to launch of Operation Rah-e-Rast on 28 April. Successful Swat operation and return of 2.5 million displaced persons to their homes turned the tide and forced the militants to run in panic. Establishment of linkage of militants with foreign powers and ongoing spate of acts of terror brought Taliban in bad books of public and demand for uprooting their main base in South Waziristan (SW) grew louder. The public as well as all political parties less JI, JUI and TI stood behind the Army.
Additional troops had started to move into Waziristan from July onwards in anticipation to a decisive battle in SW. USA had been exerting extreme pressure on our government to commence operation in Waziristan in conjunction with Swat operation. Army disfavored opening of two fronts simultaneously particularly when troops were engaged in Swat, Lower and Upper Dir , Buner, Shangla, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency and Darra Adam Khel. It would have amounted to dilution and dispersion of resources thereby losing concentration of effort in all sectors. It took its time to allow consolidation of gains made on Swat front.
Period from July to mid October was judiciously utilized for gaining intelligence to formulate plans, getting to know strength and weaknesses of militants, acclimatization of troops and familiarization of area of operations, completing its operational deficiencies, tying up nuts and bolts and streamlining drills how to confront challenges of IEDs, militants adept in guerrilla warfare and rugged terrain. For the first time, the army was not launched in haste and given adequate preparation time and moral support. During preparatory maneuver, troops continued with their creeping forward policy to isolate and encircle targeted area from multiple sides. This tactic curtailed liberty of action of Hakimullah led militants and gave psychological ascendancy to the military. At the same time, both Maulvi Nazir in SW and Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan (NW) were kept under tight control and no deal was made to keep them friendly.
Once go ahead was given by the government, operation Rah-e-Nijat was unfolded from three directions on 17 October. One prong moved from north to south along axis Razmak-Makeen, second from southeast to northwest along axis Jandola-Kotkai-Srarogha, the third from south to north along axis Shakai-Shrawangai-Ladha. Balanced force was employed on each axis of advance and movement made on broad front to overcome opposition with speed and to home on to vital complex of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen. Three pronged maneuver aimed at outmaneuvering and encircling the adversary and blocking all avenues of escape or reinforcement from elsewhere. Soldiers climbed the rugged mountains like mountain leopards and rolled down to rupture the positions occupied by militants on hilltops.
Within fortnight, considerable progress was made on all axes causing disarray among militants. Wireless intercepts indicated signs of chaos among them. Many among them shaved their beards and trimmed their beards and ran for life. Troops on Razmak pincer secured Kot Azam and Cheena and then leapt towards critical position of Makeen. On Jandola axis, troops captured important places of Spinkai Roghzai, Kotkai which is hometown of Hakimullah and Qari Hussain and then over ran the pivotal position of Srarogha. On Shakai-Shrawangai axis, Shrawangai, Khaisura, Torwam Bridge and key town Kunigram were captured. Troops on this axis attacked vital target of Ladha, 8 km ahead of Kunigram on night of 3/4 November where after intense fighting in the streets, the town was captured on 5 November, much ahead of scheduled 7 November. Soon after, this force was asked to clear Makeen and link up with the force coming from direction of Kot Azam which it did with admirable speed and efficiency.
Although the militants put up stiff resistance at each point, however the resolve and determination of assaulting troops led by officers was so strong that they had to give in. Rapid successes made by the brave-hearts shattered centuries-old myth of invincibility of tribesmen of this region. Terrorists are failing and will fail because they are fighting for a wrong cause and at the behest of foreign powers. Huge caches of arms, ammunition, explosives, suicide jackets and material required for suicide jackets have been seized; chemical factories making IEDs taken over. Five truckloads of Indian origin arms, ammunition, medical equipment and literature were apprehended from Shrawangai. One laptop of 1000 GB with external drive containing all sorts of data, training lessons, and videos of criminal activities of so-called Taliban recovered.
Tunnels laden with armaments in hundreds have been discovered in captured areas. One of the tunnels in Kotkai was 500 meters long. These tunnels were in use for treating injured, for rest and refitting, for training and hiding suicide bombers and for making escape good. Houses with compounds and high mud walls where suicide bombers were imparted training have also been unearthed. Weapons and equipment seized include heavy MGs, RPGs, 12.7mm and 14.5mm guns, 107mm rockets, AK-47 rifles, SMGs, missile launchers, anti-aircraft guns, grenades, anti-tank mines, chemicals, explosives, wireless sets, jamming equipment. These were mostly Russian and Indian made.
It was foreseen that battle within Ladha-Makeen complex will be the hardest where top leadership of TTP is based and where majority of militants uprooted from forward positions would withdraw and would give last ditch battle. Large numbers have been killed and arrested. Most survivors have moved towards the western Shawal Range or into dense jungle northwest of Makeen. Occupation of critical triangle of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen together with main communication lines has dismantled the TTP network and it is no more in a position to put up an organized fight except for sporadic raids. Maj Gen Rabbani led Division has made further progress west of Shrawangai-Kunigram-Ladha towards Shawal Range through search operations and cleared more militant nests and made more recoveries of armaments.
Although border security check posts along Afghan-Pakistan border were deviously vacated by US-Nato troops with sinister motives at a crucial time when operation had just begun, the scheme backfired. Much to the disappointment of detractors of Pakistan , Afghan Taliban categorically stated that they would abide by their policy of not confronting Pak Army. Spate of suicide attacks from September onwards were undertaken by bombers already launched from SWA. Involvement of Blackwater and RAW in terrorist activities in major cities of Punjab , NWFP is evident. India is desperate to ease pressure on beleaguered TTP since its massive investment is going waste.
New battlegrounds in NWA and Karachi are being created to stretch the Army. Orakzai Agency, which had become another breeding ground for suicide bombers, has been controlled through a focused FC operation resulting in curtailment of suicide attacks. Militants in Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber Agencies too have been given no respite. Simultaneous and strenuous efforts by the Army and FC have begun to pay dividends. Tribal jirga of Mahsud tribe have agreed to hand over TTP chief as well as wanted 377 other militants and has announced its full support to the government.
Successful completion of Rah-e-Nijat would help in curbing terrorism to a great extent. The Army having played its part commendably, it is now the turn of political Administration to play its part to win the hearts and minds of the affected areas through relief and rehabilitation works together with development works and adopting people friendly rather than US friendly policies. FATA should be freed of presence of CIA and RAW agents and foreigners.