The army on Sunday launched a major ground offensive in one of the last two remaining pockets in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan as part of Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to establish state writ in the region and also deny Da’ish any space in the country.
The operation, codenamed Khyber-4, has been initiated in Rajgal Valley, considered to be the most difficult terrain in the entire Federal Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters in Rawalpindi that the operation in Rajgal Valley was part of the ongoing anti-terror campaign under Radd-ul-Fasaad.
The military spokesperson said Rajgal Valley was the most difficult terrain for operation, as it spread over an area of 256 square kilometres with eight passes and heights ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 above sea level.
“A full division of the army, including artillery, aviation and backed by Pakistan Air Force, is taking part in the Rajgal operation,” Major Gen Ghafoor told journalists.
The operation in Rajgal Valley, he said, was critical since it could provide a key route to Da’ish terrorists operating from Afghanistan to establish their foothold in Pakistan.
He said splinter groups of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were operating from Rajgal. He also disclosed that recent terrorist attacks in Parachinar were also linked to Da’ish in Afghanistan.
When asked, the ISPR director-general said every operation had certain timeline but added that he could not divulge those details publically because of operational reasons.
To a question about the presence of Da’ish, the army spokesperson clarified that there was no organised presence of the terrorist outfit in Pakistan.
“There are splinter groups of the TTP such as JuA (Jumaat-ul-Ahrar) which are trying to use the brand of Da’ish.”
The spokesperson said Afghanistan had been informed about the ground offensive in Rajgal Valley in the hope that the neighbouring country would take appropriate steps to take care of fleeing terrorists.
Maj Gen Ghafoor also clarified that there was no agreement on the joint operation by Pakistan and Afghanistan against terrorists.