Pakistani PM: Anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan is over

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that the military operation targeting Taliban militants based in the South Waziristan tribal region is now over, after nearly two months.

He commented that the military is now focusing on the nearby Orakzai tribal region, in order to pursue the Pakistani Taliban leadership that is believed to have fled there from South Waziristan. There recently have been heavy artillery and air strikes in the area.

"The operation in South Waziristan is over. Now there are talks about Orakzai," Gilani said earlier today to reporters in a televised speech

In mid-October, Gilani ordered Pakistan's military to conduct the offensive, known as Operation Rah-e-Nijat or "Road to Deliverance."

Military officials say more than 600 Taliban members and some 80 soldiers have been killed in the operation near the Afghan border. These numbers have not been independently verified because, except for a few military-organized trips, the military has largely closed the area to journalists and aid agencies. The United Nations reported that about 40,000 of people have fled the region, and need humanitarian aid.

The Pakistani military has said the goals of the offensive were to clear Taliban-controlled areas and force the group's leaders to take refuge in scattered villages. Once that was achieved, the military said it would be easier for the army to conduct intelligence-led operations to capture or kill these leaders, including Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Meshud.

Pakistani officials have blamed Mehsud's organization for a series of high profile attacks across the country that has killed more than 500 people since the beginning of October.