ISLAMABAD: Top military leaders have decided to redeploy experienced combat units in Swat after intelligence reports suggested that remnants of local Taliban were regrouping in Mohmand and Khyber tribal regions and planning to stage a comeback next summer.
Officials said troops and officers, who were at the forefront of an offensive to drive Taliban militants out of the valley, were being sent back to upper reaches of Swat.
Most of the troops, who fought the Taliban in 2009, belonged to the army’s Punjab and Azad Kashmir regiments and had been sent back to their bases in cantonments like Kharian and Jhelum after the military operation ended last year.
“Most of them will now be going back to … Swat … we don’t want to leave any loopholes on our part,” a security official told The Express Tribune from Swat, on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Swat Taliban were regrouping in Mohmand and Khyber under a new leader, Qari Abdul Jabbar, and planned to push the army out of the valley over which the militants lost control almost two years ago.
The army operation between May and July of 2009 chased most militants out of Swat, Dir and Buner districts, but top leaders of the group, including its fugitive chief Maulvi Fazlullah (commonly known as Mullah Radio) remained at large.
After a period of relative calm, the valley is again witnessing clashes between militants and security forces.
Officials said experienced units are being sent back to Swat because they know the terrain and had been successful there in eradicating militants last year. “The idea is to give control of the valley to people who have once been victorious. Of course, their morale will be higher,” a security official said.
Besides tactical deployments, the military would also be intensifying an intelligence campaign in the valley to make sure that the area “does not fall into the Taliban’s control again”, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2010.