Islamabad: Pakistani military has cleared militants from more than 80 per cent of the restive North Waziristan tribal region, once considered a bastion of the Tehrik-e-Taliban.
The military in June launched the Operation 'Zarb-i-Azb' against the Taliban in North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan to flush out the militant group's strongholds.
The operation was launched following a deadly attack on Karachi international airport which killed 37 people.
Three months into the operation, the military says it has cleared more than 80 per cent of the territory in North Waziristan including its regional headquarters of Miramshah, its now ruined sub-district Mirali and a communication line spreading over 80 kilometres up to Dattakhel, the Dawn said.
The Air Force has spearheaded the campaign, pounding suspected militants' hideouts in what until recently was the epicentre of terrorism in the country as the military moved its infantry and mechanised forces to clear and hold a region where the state until June enjoyed little to no authority.
As things stand, the military is now in Dattakhel, 35km west of Miramshah, consolidating its position and working out plans for the tough fight ahead in the densely forested Shawal Valley, facing occasional rocket and mortar fire from militants, the paper said.
Looking at the map, roughly one quarter of the territory in North Waziristan remains to be cleared - Dattakhel and the areas beyond it, including Shawal.
Surrounded by Preghar, a natural high-peaks fortification from one side, the military in Dattakhel on the other and a snowy winter coming up two to three months from now, militants, local and foreign, hiding in Shawal have a daunting challenge ahead.
"With snow around, mobility becomes difficult," a security official said. "Militants would find it hard to come down and that?s when we will hit them."
Most of the 44 casualties the military has suffered since the launch of the operation on June 15 have resulted from roadside bombings and rocket attacks.
Even the more than 900 militants, the military claims to have killed, perished in air bombings rather than combat.
The militant leadership has fled.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur has relocated to Afghanistan's southeastern Khost province along with his family.
Mullah Fazlullah, who heads what now remains of the Tehreek-i-Taliban, is believed to have taken up sanctuary in Afghanistan's Paktia province.
TTP Punjab leader Asmatullah, who had relocated along with the Haqqanis, has announced to abandon militant 'jihad' inside Pakistan.
As for the foreign militants including the Uzbeks, Chechens, Chinese Uighur Muslims and some Arabs, there are credible reports of their movement from Shawal to Wana and onwards to Zhob to their new jihad destination in Syria.