ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani security forces are witnessing a drop in casualties as military operations against militants have sharply minimised their ability to target troops, experts say.
Casualties among security force personnel have dropped to a 10-year low, data show.
The number of troops killed started descending in 2010, after a high of 991 in 2009, and in 2016 it reached a low of 293, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).
Analysts credit the drop in casualties to military operations conducted in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), as well as to police, Frontier Corps (FC) and Rangers operations targeting militants in other parts of the country.
Among all security forces, the army suffered the most casualties, according to Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for FATA.
In North Waziristan alone, about 700 military personnel were killed during counter-militancy operations in the past two years, he said.
"After the military [in terms of numbers], police and FC personnel in KP, FATA, Sindh and Balochistan have sacrificed their lives in their fight against militancy and in terrorist attacks, but their actual number is not available," he told Pakistan Forward.
Since 2003, about 6,710 security personnel have fallen in the war against terrorism, according to SATP data retrieved March 19. Some 21,642 civilians and 33,533 militants are among the 61,885 people killed in terrorism-related events in Pakistan during this period.
Consolidating military gains
"Military Operation Zarb-e-Azb and other operations destroyed the infrastructure, hideouts and training centres of terrorist outfits in Pakistan, causing some militants to take refuge in Afghanistan and in the border areas between the two countries," Shah said.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched in February "to consolidate gains of previous operations and to eliminate militants hiding within the country and in the border areas along Afghanistan", he said.
Security forces also have intensified intelligence-based operations alongside Radd-ul-Fasaad, which have further diminished militants' capacity, he said.
"Security personnel's aggressive approach against the Taliban and other militants have weakened them to such an extent that they cannot easily attack security forces like in the past," Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based think tank Centre for Research and Security Studies, told Pakistan Forward.
The security situation is expected to improve throughout 2017, but "scattered incidents of terrorism could take place", he warned.
Improving security in 2017
"December 16, 2014, was the darkest and deadliest day for Pakistan, when seven terrorists struck the Army Public School in Peshawar," Karachi-based security analyst Col. (ret.) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt told Pakistan Forward.
In the aftermath of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack, which left more than 140 children and teachers dead, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, helping to minimise terrorist attacks on security forces and civilians, Butt said.
"The military's action was so swift and furious that militants were completely routed from the area bordering Afghanistan," he said.
Security forces' vigilance and the introduction of a border management system on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border weakened militants' ability to hit hard targets, he said.
Moreover, under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad more than 145 militants and their facilitators have been killed in about a month.
"If border management with Afghanistan and intelligence are further improved, this will reduce the intensity of militancy and improve the security situation in Pakistan in 2017," he said.