"It's a very, very slow fight. It's an operation which has a lot of constraints," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman. "You have to move through the population, and particularly if the population is not coming out in open, not willingly welcoming the army, and is not pointing out which areas the militants are either consolidating or hiding or have taken refuge, then it becomes difficult to actually target the militants."
The people who have terrorized Swat are a mostly local band of Taliban and criminals, but the valley's anarchy could spread into more districts of Pakistan, analysts said, furthering eroding government writ in northwest Pakistan, which has become increasingly dominated by the Taliban.
"Swat was the most peaceful district in the whole province. So if a peaceful place can become so violent, then the same thing can happen to the other places," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, an ABC News consultant and the Peshawar-based editor of The News International newspaper, which has tried to highlight an issue the national government has only recently spoken publicly about.
"Swat will have a fallout on the adjoining areas, and it includes some districts that are on the Afghanistan border," Yusufzai continued. "Swat has already become one of the centers of the operation for Taliban in the neighboring districts and the tribal areas."
Late last year, 600 elite police officers graduated from a counterinsurgency program at the Punjab Regimental Center in Mardan, just outside of Peshawar.
They refused to be deployed to Swat, officials told ABC News, because they did not agree with the way the military was conducting the operation.
That underscores a widespread doubt in the army's ability as well as its motivation to defeat the militants.
The military is changing its tactics, Abbas said, moving soldiers closer to the population. An additional brigade is also arriving in Swat, and a brigade that was operating there has been removed, replaced by a new commander who was based in Gujranwala, a district in southeastern Pakistan.
Over the weekend the military took a dramatic step, issuing an "indefinite" curfew for parts of Swat, according to the state-run media center in Swat.
"Anybody and vehicle violating curfew orders will be shoot at sight. No vehicle to move in the area during curfew," the statement said. "People have been requested to remain in homes and avoid movement and fully observe curfew orders."
But right now, the people of Swat say Mingora and their beloved valley has never been worse.
"Swatis are unable to live even hand to mouth," said Ziauddin Yousafzai, a social activist and a senior member of Swat's Private Schools Management Association. "Swat is burning."
Note: A local journalist in Swat contributed reporting for this article.