Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf received glowing praise for his success in the 'war on terrorism' during a recent world tour. At home, however, it is a different story. The public is enraged over bungled operations in the tribal areas which have cost lives but failed to capture any significant terrorist figure. Launched two years ago, the military operations in the semi-autonomous tribal areas of South Waziristan, or Wana, were meant to capture Osama bin Laden and his associates, reputedly holed up in the vast lawless tracts along the porous frontier with Afghanistan. However, despite the deployment of some 70,000 troops, the offensive has failed to accomplish its objectives. The operations have lasted longer and turned out to be more intractable than anticipated. Most of the 500 al-Qaeda fighters who were initially reported to be in the area are believed to have escaped, while the Pakistan army has suffered substantial losses. The offensive also drew severe criticism across the country, making it the most unpopular step taken by General Musharraf's government. 'The operation has caused a much greater degree of disaffection, not only amongst the local people but people all over Pakistan,' says Riffat Hussain, head of strategic studies at Islamabad's National Defence College. The missions have failed thanks to the rugged terrain and the extremely hostile local population. The region's ethnic Pashtuns took the operation as an assault on their freedom and extended full support to al-Qaeda and Taleban fugitives hiding in the area. Moreover, the military planners - astonishingly - overlooked the tribesmen's fierce sense of independence and relied too heavily on the use of force without making any genuine effort to win their support. Punitive measures like aerial and artillery bombardments and an economic blockade of the area alienated even those tribesmen initially opposed to the militants. 'The army went for the military solution, not realising this is a political and cultural problem,' said Mr Hussain. Officials say the sectarian attacks that have plagued Pakistan in the past six months are a direct result of the crackdown. In Waziristan itself, the large number of civilian casualties and the loss of property have left a deep sense of resentment, leading many young tribesmen to join the armed struggle. The failed military offensive also angered extremist elements within the country and undermined the credibility of the security forces. making it the target of frequent attacks in recent days. 'The operation has adversely affected the reputation of the military,' said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading political analyst. Although the authorities in Islamabad have vowed to fight the battle till its end, observers believe the situation has already got out of hand for the Musharraf regime.