Pakistan's army carried out multiple airstrikes early Thursday morning, killing foreign fighters in retaliation for more than 40 attacks against its government by the Taliban over the past month, Pakistani officials confirmed to TheBlaze.
The army targeted militant hideouts in the country's secluded North Waziristan Agency, an area governed by Taliban leadership in the tribal belt, where extremists are known to have training camps.
As the U.S. prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, Taliban insurgents have been ramping up their training and moving more fighters into Afghanistan, a U.S. official told TheBlaze.
"There is concern that Afghanistan will fall back into the hands of the Taliban and Pakistan's tribal belt will once again be plagued with extremist training camps," the official said. "We have to keep our eyes on the region and unfortunately the situation is not getting better, but worse — the return of foreign fighters in the region again, tells me there's something to be concerned about. "
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas region, which is rough and mountainous, is not easily accessible. In 2010, this reporter traveled with the Pakistan army on a military operation into the tribal belt. The area is mainly off-limits to journalists, so it is difficult to verify the total number of deaths, which one Pakistani official told TheBlaze was more than 35. Other numbers released in Pakistan earlier in the day suggest only 15 were killed. The Pakistani Taliban has also been threatening to retaliate against the United States for drone strikes in the region that have killed their leadership.
Over the past 20 days, the Pakistan government has endured multiple attacks by the militants on army checkpoints, official police sites and in other various parts of major cities. More than 175 security and police personnel have been killed over the past month, Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said.
He said in a press conference that the Pakistan government is still hoping for peace talks with Taliban but terrorism is unacceptable.
Security officials said the airstrikes, which used Airforce Jets and AH-1Cobra Army gunship, bombed one of Pakistan's most dangerous Taliban groups, the Tereek-e-Taliban, abbreviated TTP, and their hideouts. They targeted a commander of the TTP, known as Jihad Yar and his Razaq compounds, a Pakistani official told TheBlaze.
The Pakistani government has been trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the TTP since Jan. 29 but during the negotiations the militant group continued to attack government facilities and employees.
A representative for Pakistan's foreign ministry said that they still have not located the bodies of the 23 Frontier Corps officers, who were killed this past month by TTP.