Pakistan’s offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan has met with significant resistance from insurgents, who have retaken one large town, targeted military vehicles with roadside bombs and held off the army’s attack helicopters with antiaircraft fire, U.S. military analysts said Friday.
The heavy fighting has slowed the advance of an estimated 36,000 to 40,000 Pakistani troops into the heart of the contested tribal region bordering Afghanistan, according to a detailed briefing on the week-old ground operation by researchers at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington think tank. Meanwhile, the report said, insurgents continue to coordinate suicide bombings and assassinations outside Waziristan.
But the large government force, aided by U.S. drone strikes and intelligence, outnumbers the insurgents and is expected to maintain its methodical, three-pronged push in an attempt to capture key territory held by the umbrella group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the tribal stronghold of slain insurgent leader Baitullah Mehsud. [continued…]