RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Wednesday visited the front lines in Waziristan, where he directed operation commanders to ensure that terrorists remain cut off from their “friends and their outside support,” a statement released by the army’s media wing said.
Reviewing the progress of ongoing operations, Gen Sharif expressed satisfaction over gains made by forces thus far and appreciated the troops’ high morale, which he said was at display while they fought terrorists in the most rugged terrain, said the statement released by Inter Services Public Relations on Wednesday.
Speaking to troops, the army chief said operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan was in its final stages, adding that remaining terrorists had been squeezed into “penny pockets” that will also be cleared soon, according to the statement. He said the successes of operation Zarb-i-Azb and the sacrifices of our officers and men have been acknowledged by the entire nation.
Gen Sharif also oversaw strategy on future operations, including the one planned in Shawal.
Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in North Waziristan on June 15, 2014, 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.
North Waziristan is one of the seven regions in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) governed by tribal laws which is situated along the Pak-Afghan border.
Last month, the army said it is finalising plans to launch the final phase of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in mid-July to flush out Taliban terrorists from their remaining strongholds along the border with Afghanistan.
“Preliminary preparations for the final push have started, which will begin next month,” a senior military official had told media during a background briefing on the eve of the first anniversary of the commencement of Zarb-i-Azb.
The final drive was planned in south of Dattakhel towards the border through the forested and mountainous Shawal Valley.
A large number of militants fleeing the operation in other parts of North Waziristan are believed to have taken refuge in Shawal Valley, which is considered to be an Al Qaeda sanctuary and a stronghold of Gul Bahadur, a warlord once considered pro-government.
Shawal has also been the focus of US drone attacks this year with multiple strikes hitting targets in the valley in which dozens of suspected militants were killed.
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