‘Stability in Bajaur within two months’

* FC IG says 1,000 Taliban, 63 soldiers killed in operation
* Says 65% of problem would be eliminated if Taliban defeated in Bajaur

KHAR/TANG KHATTA: The situation in Bajaur Agency will be stabilised within two months, the Frontier Corps (FC) chief in the region said on Friday.

“My timeframe for Bajaur is anything from between one-and-a-half to two months to bring about stability,” FC Inspector General Maj Gen Tariq Khan told reporters on an army-organised trip to Bajaur.

Taliban killed: Khan said troops had killed more than 1,000 Taliban and injured 2,000 others since the offensive began in early August. Khan said five top Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders were among those killed in the month-long operation. He said they included four foreigners. They were Egyptian Abu Saeed Al-Masri, Arab Abu Suleiman, Uzbek Mullah Mansoor, and an Afghan commander called Manaras.

The fifth was a son of Faqir Mohammad, the top Taliban commander in the region. Faqir himself was believed to be injured. Some 63 troops had died and 212 were injured in the operation so far, Khan said.

65 percent: Khan estimated 65 percent of the Taliban problem would be eliminated if they were defeated in Bajaur, describing the region as a ‘centre of gravity’ for the Taliban. “If they lose here, they’ve lost almost everything,” he said.

Military officials paraded 10 blindfolded and handcuffed men said to be Taliban fighters – arrested during the operation – before the reporters who joined the trip.

Khan also showed reporters photos of tunnel systems and trenches, suggesting the Taliban were well established in the region that is considered a likely hiding place for top Al Qaeda leaders including Osama Bin Laden.

He put the Taliban’s strength at around 2,000, including Afghans, Uzbeks and Arabs as well as Pakistani Taliban. He said the Taliban’s fighting strength had not gone down appreciably despite heavy casualties due to reinforcements coming in from the northwest as well as Afghanistan. “I personally feel that trained squads have been moved in,” Khan said. agencies (Daily Times)