Swat offensive 'over in days'

Pakistan says pockets of Taliban resistance will be 'cleared' in two to three days.

    Syed Athar Ali told delegates that Pakistan's offensive in Swat would be over in days [EPA] 

    "I'm sure this official must be referring to Mingora city rather than the Swat valley because Swat will take more time," he told Al Jazeera by phone from Rawalpindi.

    In depth


     Video: Swat's fleeing Sikhs
     Pictures: Refuge for Swat's Sikhs
     Video: Inside the war zone in Mingora city

     Pictures: Lahore bombing
     Diary: Imran Khan
     Riz Khan: Obama's 'AfPak' strategy
     Riz Khan: The battle for the soul of Pakistan
     Interview: Asif Ali Zardari
     Q&A: The struggle for Swat
     Your views: Crisis in Swat
     The fight for northwest Pakistan
    Talking to the Taliban
    Pakistan's war
     Witness: Pakistan in crisis

    "The main valley is likely to be completed, let's say, in two weeks time."

    He said that the valley itself "is quite spread out and it will warrant the clearance of all those [Taliban] positions in the countryside [and] up in the mountain ranges".

    Analysts also questioned the defence secretary's statement.
     
    "What he is trying to say is that, as far as the battle is concerned, it's going to be over very soon," Talat Masood, a defence analyst and retired general from the Pakistan army, told Al Jazeera.

    "But in such like insurgencies, it's not just winning the battle.

    "As you regain territory, you have to make sure that the administrative structures are set up."

    'Optimistic statement'

    The debate over how long it will take Pakistan to re-take the Swat valley, come a day after the military said it had regained full control of Mingora, the valley's main city.

    Imran Khan, Al Jazeera's correspondent reporting from Islamabad, the capital, said the defence secretary's assessment of victory in two to three days was "an optimistic statement".

    "It depends in part on what your indicator is - whether you think it is routing the Taliban that means victory or whether its repatriating 3.4 million refugees and giving them back their homes and their land," he said.

    Humanitarian crisis

    About 2.4 million people have fled in the wake of the military's campaign against the Taliban, joining people displaced by earlier fighting.

    There are no figures of civilian casualties, but some of the displaced have told of innocent relatives being killed.

    Around 300,000 people lived in Mingora until the Taliban occupied the town in early May when the army first launched an offensive in Swat.

    Also on Sunday, there were reports that at least 15 fighters and between two and three soldiers were killed in clashes in South Waziristan, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

    Fighting there has intensified in recent days amid the offensive in the nearby Swat valley and there is an expectation that the military will turn its focus on the area, which borders Afghanistan, once its Swat operation is over.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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