By Kamran Haider
ISLAMABAD, June 30 (Reuters) - Pakistani soldiers are clearing the last pockets of Taliban in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, after two months of fighting, the military said.
Fighting in the northwest has forced nearly 2 million people from their homes, most of them from the former tourist valley of Swat. [ID:nISL489162]
Following are some questions and answers about the Swat offensive, which has won the praise of ally the United States.
WILL THE TALIBAN FIGHT ON?
No Taliban leaders have been among the approximately 1,600 militants the army has reported killed in Swat. Independent casualty estimates are not available. A Swat Taliban spokesman said this week his leaders were alive and determined to fight on. Analysts say eliminating Taliban leaders is key to ending the insurgency. The government has announced rewards for 18 senior Swat Taliban including top leader Fazlullah. The army says it is out to kill them.
CAN THE ARMY HOLD THE VALLEY?
The army can hold main towns and roads, but militants can be expected to lurk in far-flung corners of the valley. The security forces are struggling to stop suicide bombers striking in main cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, and the government has already said bomb attacks are likely in Swat even after the military officially winds up its operation there.
Soldiers are expected to remain in the valley for at least a year but the military, which is about to get embroiled in what is likely to be a much tougher fight against Pakistan’s Taliban leader in South Waziristan, will want to see police quickly assuming greater responsibilities.
Taliban attacked poorly paid and equipped police in the run-up to the offensive, and some abandoned their posts. Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of the police. Analysts also say it will be important to establish quickly a robust civil administration that should focus on some of the grievances that the Taliban exploited, including an ineffective judiciary.
WHEN WILL THE DISPLACED GO HOME?
The government has said power, gas and phone lines are being restored and the displaced can start going home within days. The North West Frontier Province government is expected soon to make an announcement on when people can start going back. Authorities have said people will be allowed to go back to specific areas in phases. But aid workers say many of the displaced are worried about security and reluctant to go home, fearing the Taliban will make a comeback. (Editing by Jason Subler and Alex Richardson)