ISLAMABAD: For the first time the military top brass suggested publicly on Monday that the army was about to conclude the military offensive in tribal areas and held deliberations on the post-operations phase.

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, while chairing a corps commanders meeting at the General Headquarters, called for ensuring that terrorists do not get a foothold in the region again.

“COAS emphasised, as we move towards conclusion of large-scale kinetic operations in Fata, there is a need to look ahead and consolidate the gains for long-term stability,” an ISPR statement on the meeting said.

The military operations in North Waziristan, codenamed Zarb-i-Azb, which commenced in June 2014, are now in the last phase with troops consolidating control of Shawal Valley.

Gen Raheel tells commanders to ensure that terrorists don’t get a foothold in the region again

The army, however, now uses the name Zarb-i-Azb more broadly as an overarching counter-terrorism plan, which includes both ‘kinetic operations’ in Fata and ‘intelligence-based operations (IBOs)’ in the rest of the country.

Talking to Dawn, military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa underscored that while the operations in Fata were drawing to a close, Zarb-i-Azb as a strategy would continue with intensified IBOs across the country targeting terrorist infrastructure.

The meeting was given an overview of the operation in Shawal, which has been continuing since August last year. The troops began the final push for clearing the valley almost three weeks ago.

The troops, Gen Bajwa said, had gained control of all major heights and passes in Shawal and are now busy in ‘sanitising operations’. He would not say how long the troops would take to complete the task. According to figures provided by the army, 207 terrorists were killed in Shawal as troops engaged over 100 militant targets. Five soldiers also lost their lives during this phase.

“COAS expressed his complete satisfaction over the progress of ongoing operation in Shawal and adjoining areas in North Waziristan Agency,” the ISPR statement said.

Regarding the post-operation strategy, the elements emphasised by Gen Sharif include return and settlement of the displaced persons according to agreed timeline, escalation in the pace of IBOs for elimination of terrorism infrastructure in the country and stricter border management to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists.

The army chief further vowed that the gains made during recent operations would not be compromised.

The corps commanders also discussed the evolving situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East and the uncertainty in ties with India.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2016



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