Zarb-e-Azb final phase set in motion

| Gen Raheel orders elimination of remaining terrorists

Islamabad - Army Chief General Raheel Sharif yesterday gave the go-ahead for the final phase of Zarb-e-Azb military operation in the Shawal Valley of North Waziristan.
He gave his nod during a briefing in Shawal on Wednesday and directed that the remaining terrorists should be eliminated from their hideouts in ravines and jungles.
General Raheel said the operation should isolate the terrorists and sever their links indiscriminately with abettors and facilitators anywhere across the country. The forces have been reinforced in the operation area, he said, adding that the local support for terrorists in Shawal Valley has diminished as people want to get rid of them.
According to Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa, army chief was briefed by the operation commander regarding operational gains made thus far and the impending operations.
“The army chief was also briefed about the deeply forested ravines of Shawal Valley and the areas ahead of Data Khel which have been frequent infiltration routes of terrorists between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and are now the last bastion of terrorists left in North Waziristan,” Bajwa said in a series of tweets.
Upon his arrival in Shawal, the COAS was received by Lt-Gen Hidayat Ur Rehman, Commander 11 Corps Peshawar.
Expressing satisfaction over the gains and effects of the operation, General Raheel acknowledged the resolve of troops to fully eliminate terrorists from their remaining sanctuaries. “Sacrifices of soldiers will not go to waste and we will achieve the ultimate goal of a terror-free Pakistan.”
Zarb-e-Azb was launched in North Waziristan on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi’s international airport and the failure of peace talks between the government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) negotiators.
The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 percent due to a combination of the military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle militancy.
AFP adds: The Afghan Taliban said Wednesday they had not been officially contacted by Kabul about the resumption of direct talks aimed at ending their conflict.
The comment came a day after the latest round of dialogue in the Afghan capital between officials from Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan.
The representatives of the four states called on the militants to return to the negotiating table and said they expect the process to begin by the first week of March.
“We are not aware of this, I cannot say anything regarding talks in Islamabad,” said the Islamist group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a phone conversation.
“We have not received anything officially in this regard; we only heard it from media.”
A first round of direct talks with the Taliban took place in the Pakistani resort town of Murree last July, but came to a standstill after the Kabul government leaked news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar two years before.
The announcement, and the appointment of his successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour, accentuated divisions among the militants, with many holding Mansour responsible for lying to them about Omar’s death.
A splinter group formed under Mullah Rasool and challenged Mansour’s leadership. But the disunity has not dented the Taliban’s fighting ability.
The insurgents are waging an unprecedented winter campaign of violence across Afghanistan, underscoring a worsening security situation more than 14 years after their government in Kabul was toppled by a US-led invasion.

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