The military next attempted to venture into the area in February 2008, when 350 Pakistani troops were forced to abandon the Ladha Fort in the militant stronghold of Makeen, in South Waziristan. That operation was also called off.
But now, a growing familiarity with the territory, which the Army had never entered prior to 2002, as well as experience gained from previous operational errors, should help, says Gen. Athar Abbas, an Army spokesperson.
And, because of the Army's gains against the Taliban in the recent offensive in Swat Valley, Mehsud's militias are now increasingly hemmed in. Recent media reports have suggested that Mehsud's men are falling back to their home turf.
Suicide bomb in Kashmir
On Friday, Mehsud's forces claimed credit for a suicide bomb attack in Pakistani-administered Kashmir – the first attack of its kind in the region – which killed two soldiers and injured three others. The attack was widely interpreted as a retaliation following a week of preoffensive aerial attacks in South Wazirstan, aimed at softening up the militants.
"We are in a position to respond to the Army's attacks, and time will prove that these military operations have not weakened us," Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy of Baitullah Mehsud, told the Associated Press.
Hassan Abbas, a research fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., also cites as a stark change the gradual delinkage of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment from its nexus with militants, whom the military traditionally viewed as a strategic asset.