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Shawal- The last militant bastion cleared

Shawal, North Waziristan: Pakistan’s military has established writ of the state in major areas of Shawal Valley after clearing militant hideouts.  A visit to Shawal Valley revealed that mountain tops and all strategic locations in the scenic Shawal Valley are now under the control of Pakistan Army.
“We have broken the backbone of militancy in Shawal,’ said the Colonel Commanding of a unit. Military bunkers, posts on mountain tops and check posts have been established at various places. However, the threat of militancy still remains as militants have support structures just across the border in Afghanistan. “Indian and Afghan intelligence are supporting some of these militants who cross over and try to attack our check posts,” said a senior officer  while referring to Indian Intelligence agency RAW and Afghan Intelligence NDS.
Some of the toughest battles in the history of mountain warfare have been fought in Shawal when Pakistan Army moved its troops to root out militants who sought refuge here, after fleeing from other areas of North Waziristan. Shawal, described as the last bastion of militants in North Waziristan Agency, assumed critical importance after Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched. The militants who fled from Mir Ali, Miranshah, Boya and Degan and other areas of North Waziristan and other tribal agencies, were finally holed up in the remotest valleys of Shawal.
For the military planners, the biggest challenge of  launching an operation of the scale as seen in Shawal, involved movement of troops, weapons and logistics to a far off place where writ of the government had never been effectively established before. The difficult terrain had to be accessed through mountain passes and valleys where each mountain top and valley was a militant stronghold. Movement of troops braced the challenges of improvised explosive devices IEDs,  snipers, hostile enemy fire of RPGs and other weapons.
A visit to the highest mountain peak in Shawal, which is about 11600 feet, revealed that the valley just across the Afghan border on Pakistani side is monitored day and night. In addition to facing off the threat of militant attacks from the Afghan side, soldiers of Pakistan Army were living in below freezing temperatures on mountain tops. Engagements with the militants are usually held in the valley now.
Whenever militants movement is observed from the Afghan side, aerial assets of Army and Air Force are also mobilised if needed.
Pakistan Army fought the world’s war in this terrain as planners of some of the major terror incidents were tracked back to these ungoverened areas along the Pakistan Afghanistan border after 9/11. Some of the leaders of Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had established strongholds in Shawal. Pakistan Army has discovered caves used by the militants which shielded them from jet bombardment and artillery fire.
The world failed to recognise how Pakistani soldiers sacrificed their life, limb and blood to secure these toughest areas where any other army would even dread to tread in such numbers. A coalition of atleast 50 countries, led by the US, could not securely hold similar areas on the Afghan side of the border. Although the international forces managed to clear the areas temporarily because of their superior technology and weapons, holding these areas became their nightmare. The success of Pakistan Army can be gauged from the fact that the areas cleared from militancy were now secured and a permanent military presence established after clearance of the militants.
The recent attacks in Paris were once again a reminder that the threat of militancy has changed its theatre of operations and nurseries. But, no credit was given to Pakistan for fighting the world’s war and making the world a safer place by clearing the militant bastions on Pakistani side of the Pak-Afghan border. With a new threat of Daesh making a foothold in Afghanistan, it is perhaps time for the world to do more to end the regional proxy wars and support networks of militants in Afghanistan trying to impose a new war on Pakistan.
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