US Fears Insurgents Are Eluding Pakistan Crackdown

Dubious success of campaign could affect Afghan troop decision
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2009 8:57 AM CST
Pakistani troops walk through the damaged market in Sararogha, a town of the troubled Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan along the Afghan border, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009.   (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

(Newser) – Pakistan's drive to oust militants from South Waziristan has been suspiciously successful, prompting US fears that the enemy is simply eluding Pakistani forces. The military, for example, recently captured Sararogha, the Taliban’s de facto capital. “It all started here,” a commander boasts to the New York Times. “This is the most important town in South Waziristan.” But the fight for the town was so light that American analysts believe the militants fled before the army arrived.

Pakistan lost just seven men in the five-day battle—by comparison, America lost 51 in eight days in Fallujah in 2004. Officially Pakistan says it’s because they’ve become better at fighting the militants. But privately one senior security official says, “They are fleeing in all directions.” That makes it hard to gauge Pakistan’s real success in clearing the region—something that will have a key effect on the Obama administration’s decision on its new Afghan strategy.