The operation in Bajaur follows a series of campaigns in the northwest meant to stop the Taliban’s expansion into new territories. The offensives have pushed in multiple directions, to South Waziristan at the southern end of the tribal belt and to Bajaur in the north.
Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who escaped Bajaur have fled with their families to Charmang, in a corner of Bajaur. The retreat came at a cost: A large number of weapons, stolen vehicles, explosives, and drugs have been recovered from their houses and cave hideouts.
Despite the dramatic rollback, the group has claimed a string of suicide attacks this week in Lahore and the Swat Valley – a reminder that fighting is nowhere near over and that that the Taliban continues to maintain a presence in settled parts of Pakistan. Suicide bombers in Swat killed 13 people on Saturday and two attacks last week in Lahore killed at least 58.
"The TTP [Taliban] is definitely under pressure. It's no longer working in a very coordinated way, they are on the defensive, and the initiative has been taken away from them," says Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood, a security analyst in Islamabad. But "it may take months and years in order to eliminate what happened in Lahore in the last few weeks. It's a very long-term conflict."