By mid-2008, the local branches of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had forced out Pakistani security forces and taken power in large portions of Mohmand and Bajaur, the northernmost of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). For three years the militant group exercised open territorial control, levying taxes and administering its own brand of justice in the mountainous areas along the Afghan border. Pakistani military operations aimed at destroying the TTP insurgency came in regular cycles, yet each declaration of success was followed by the swift resurgence of militant power. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fled the violence to reside in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps or with family members elsewhere in Pakistan.
Recently, however, the tide in Mohmand and Bajaur has turned decisively in the Pakistani military's favor. For the first time in four years, militants have lost the territory they once openly controlled. Whether the tide turns back, or whether these tribal areas even matter given the larger challenges Pakistan faces, is another question entirely.
The TTP figured prominently in an article I coauthored last year discussing the legal implications of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.