Pakistan Generals Claim Taliban on the Run

On the top of this mountain, where the only thing that impedes the view is the horizon or a nearby peak, the Pakistani flag is flying for the first time in more than three years.

Until two days ago, the Taliban controlled the 7,000-foot point, according to local Pakistani army generals, using it as a command center and training facility from which they sent out young boys to fight an insurgency across the besieged Swat Valley.

Today, the army escorted a group of mostly foreign media to the peak and a base below it to try and prove that it was succeeding in its attempts to defeat an embedded Taliban insurgency in a valley of 1.7 million people.

The fight was continuing methodically, the escorting military generals insisted, although they admitted that about 30 percent of the area around the peak was still under Taliban control, including their stronghold, just two valleys and peaks away from Baine Baba Ziarat. They also said the fight would move toward the Taliban stronghold and into Swat's major towns.

But while the generals claimed not to have inflicted any suffering on the local population, some residents in the valleys below the peak say the operation has cut off access to food and water for weeks, and that they are suffering more than anyone else in the ongoing battles across the Northwest Frontier Province.

One resident of Bahrain, one of the largest districts in the area, told ABC News today that about 10,000 people recently protested the lack of food and basic facilities like access to health care. The resident, who declined to provide his name, also disputed news reports that another nearby area had repelled a recent Taliban advance.

He said he helped broker a fragile peace between the Taliban and residents of Kalam, but that the agreement only ensured the militants wouldn't attack the locals. They were still entrenched in Kalam, he said, ready for the army to bring the battle to them, and that residents opposing the Taliban were angry they hadn't received military assistance despite telling the army they were running out of ammunition.

Generals Say Taliban on the Run

As he spoke by phone, the possible implications of the war arrived in the form of a massive explosion in a crowded mall in the region's capital, Peshawar. A car bomb destroyed buildings and killed at least six people, Peshawar police officials told ABC News, injuring at least 72. It was the largest attack since the battles in the northwest began and the second in Peshawar in the past week, seemingly a sign that attacks of retribution could occur at any point.

But the generals on the ground in the Swat Valley said their effort was proceeding well, and that they had taken two of three main principle objectives in northern Swat and were closing in on their third.

"Militants are on the run; they have lost their ability to mount a coherent response," said Maj. Gen. Sajjid Ghani, who leads the fight in northern Swat. "The operation won't be over until it reaches its logical end state, until all terrorists and extremists are eliminated n Swat."

Ghani and his aides admitted that their military superiority went further on top of a mountain peak where the Talbain don't have anti-aircraft guns than it will in the cities, where fighters are living among hundreds of thousands of people.

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