ISLAMABAD: Fighter jets on Tuesday targeted hideouts of terrorists in a mountainous region of Khyber Agency right on the border with Afghanistan as army launched an operation to reinforce deployment of troops along the Pak-Afghan border to effectively check movement of terrorists.
Most terrorist-infested regions of Khyber Agency – including the strategic Tirah Valley – were cleansed in two previous operations, codenamed Khyber-I & II. And security officials say Operation Khyber-III launched on Tuesday would target the terrorists holed up in the area beyond Tirah Valley, right on the Pak-Afghan border.
The operation was launched in Rajgal Valley tucked deep in high mountains with all-weather passes in Khyber Agency, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. Large dumps of arms and ammunition and terrorist hideouts were precisely targeted in air raids and ground operations in the treacherous terrain, it added. Nine dens of terrorists were decimated.
The military said 14 terrorists were killed and 11 wounded in the blitzkrieg. However, it would not say which groups the terrorists belonged to. The Mangal Bagh Afridi-led Lashkar-e-Islam religious extremist group and some factions of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had a strong presence in the region before the previous operations were launched.
The operation will reduce cross-border movement of terrorists, according to the ISPR. The offensive is a part of Pakistan’s efforts to ensure effective border management to check infiltration of terrorists, who shuttle between Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.
The military has successfully routed terrorists from the tribal areas, including North Waziristan Agency, where local and foreign terrorists once held sway. But terrorists still maintain some hideouts close to the porous border. Security officials said the operation in Rajgal Valley would squeeze the space available to fleeing terrorists in the border region.
Pakistan is keen on strengthening a border mechanism which it says is vital to take the ongoing fight against terrorism to a logical end. As part of the plan, Pakistan also enforced new border rules at Torkham, one of the busiest crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
However, the construction of a gate at Torkham border crossing sparked tensions between the two countries in June when Afghan forces resorted to unprovoked firing in an attempt to disrupt constructions. The border skirmishes left one Pakistan Army major dead and several others wounded.
But lately, the two neighbours decided to resolve the issue through dialogue, and for this purpose they set up a high-level bilateral coordination mechanism for border security. An expert-level meeting of the bilateral mechanism was held in Islamabad last month to work out modalities.
Despite objection from Kabul, Islamabad said it would not compromise on new border rules as it plans to establish similar security gates on all nine border crossing points with Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2016.