"The enemy we fight here is faceless," said Brig. Gen. Ajab Khan, who had been posted in the nearby fort of Khwazakhela for more than a year.
Pressed on how long the operation would take, Ghani said the area he oversaw in northern Swat should be cleared within three to four months.
But U.S. officials are skeptical of that estimate. Rear Adm. Michael Lefever, the top military advisor in the Islamabad embassy, told reporters this week he expected refugee camps to remain full through the end of the year.
And some of Ghani's own commanders admitted that the battle would take longer than anyone anticipated.
Khan pointed out the colonial history of the area, noting that one of Britain's worst battles in its history occurred a few miles from Swat. "The Brits were here for 94 years," Khan said. "With an insurgency like this, it takes time."