Pakistan's Operation Sherdil-Death to the Taliban! August 2008

A VERY slow pace attack

Operation Sherdil (Lion Heart) began in August 2008 and was initially aimed at preventing the imminent fall of Khar, headquarters of Bajaur District, to the Taliban. While the military operation was intended to reclaim all of Bajaur from the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist, particular emphasis was focused on primarily Dara, Mullah Syed and Banda areas. Rashakai, Tang Khatta, Mamoond, Bai Cheena, Bicheena, Delay, Nisarabad, Niag Banda, Charmang and Khazana, were also targeted due to the largest concentration of the militant Islamist forces there.

After Waziristan, Bajaur District is the most significant stronghold of militants who have entrenched themselves transforming the area into a nerve center of the Taliban & al Qaeda network for its Brigade 055. The terrorist strength in Bajaur is estimated at about 3,000, including both foreigners and the Pakistani Taliban, according to Major General Tariq Khan, the Frontier Corps (FC). Bajaur has become a safe haven and has been transformed into a well secured fortress, constructing tunnel systems and trenches across the area. Network of tunnels have been discovered in the former Taliban strongholds of Tankkhata, Rashakai and Loyesam. The terrain in the zone is fairly flat, barren land riddled with many wet and dry river beds making off road movement toilsome. The road from Khan to Loyesam is two lane asphalt made. Most others are one lane dirt roads.

Initially, the offensive was launched to retake the border crossing near the town of Loyesam (7-8 miles from Khar), from the notorious Tehrik-e-Taliban. Khar is by far the largest town in the District. Loisam, a small town, sits in a strategic position that controls the passage into Afganistan's Kunar Province via a narrow dirt road. The Taliban forces had seized it on August 3 from a 200-strong force of paramilitary Frontier Corps, and were surrounded by 300-400 Taliban fighters. Heavy fighting erupted as the the Frontier Corps' tried to break out. After a three-day battle, the Pakistani troops finally routed back to Khar in disarray, and the Taliban were victorious. They quickly followed the Pakistani force and began to threaten Khar.

On August 6th, 8,000 troops from the 14th Division, backed by 20 Cobra attack helicopters from the 31st and 32nd Squadrons and fighter jets pounded Taliban holdouts. It was a great display of force and might. Many civilians became casualties. Pakistani military sources indicated that the army has been shocked by the fanatical resistance the Terrorists in and around Khar and towards Loyesam. So much so, that after 30 days, the Pakistanis were only able to clear a seven mile stretch of road!

By October 8th , the military announced that 2,744 terrorists, including 321 foreigners, had been killed and 1,400 injured since the start of the operation in Pakistan. On October 25, the Pakistan Army reported that they had finally recaptured Loi Sam (Loyesam) from the Taliban. In Bajaur town alone, 500 terrorists had been killed. While the the outpost of Loi Sam or Loyesam was retook, the reader should note that the distance from it to Khar is a hop and a skip for any military force worthy of its name.  So, it took the Pakistani Army two and half months to do this. Why?

Bajaur District remained a combat zone until the Pakistani Army declared it had “cleansed” it of terrorists on December 24. The Pakistani forces lost 100 KIA and 400 WIA. But, was it really?  Obviously, the Taliban had suffered losses and more obvious is the fact they remain a viable threat to this day in that district. Sherdil was Pakistan's early military ops that crawled like none other. Was this because of the Taliban or was it more of the military's lackadaisal overly cautious effort or a bit of both? Military ops since last year reveal it is more of the latter. Yet, Pakistan is really up the wall here. They may not want to fight their own brothers but must if they are going to perserve their society as it is now.

The Pakistan Army should treat the Pakistani Taliban as a "brother gone bad" who is willing to blow the good brother to smithereens. Only one brother can win in Pakistan.

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