ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - After clearing some of most dangerous Taliban insurgents from their South Waziristan bastion, the army faces another decisive battle - persuading tribal leaders its safe to return. Pashtun tribal elders have historically held sway in South Waziristan and their return would be a vote of confidence in the government, which is under mounting pressure to stabilise country. Last October, an army offensive destroyed Taliban bases, killed hundreds of fighters and forced many others to flee South Waziristan. But discussions between the state and members of South Waziristans dominant Mehsud tribe on repatriation are stalled, said Senator Saleh Shah, who has taken part in the discussions. Tribal elders, mindful that the Taliban assassinated many in their ranks, are demanding security guarantees. The military has promised to help but it also wants their help in tracking down 370 Taliban terrorists, raising concerns that the group still poses risks. If security forces cant arrest them? How can we do that?, Shah, a prominent member of the Mehsud tribe, told Reuters. How can we go back unless the area is cleared? This is not our land any more. Its a battleground. Establishing long-term security in South Waziristan, the biggest of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the northwest, is crucial in efforts to stabilise both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where an Afghan Taliban insurgency is raging. Crackdowns have weakened the Taliban. But they often melt away during army assaults and sometimes return to former strongholds such as South Waziristan, where the military may not have the resources to stay for long. We have told them (state officials) that we are not going back unless we are completely sure that it is safe to return, said Malik Haji Mohammad, a Mehsud tribal elder. Government have never had much authority in FATA, areas hostile to outside interference. So getting tribal leaders to go back could help pacify a region the US believes could make or break the battle against militancy. After a US-led invasion defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, many fighters flocked to FATA and established bases. The Taliban nearly destroyed the traditional leadership structure, beheading and shooting of tribal elders. So elders who return have to start from scratch. Haunted by the carnage, people who fled have more pressing concerns. I dont want to be killed. I dont want my children to be killed, said Qaisar Khan, who left a clothing business behind in South Waziristan. Tribal leaders also want compensation for damages inflicted by fighting. Shah estimates that almost one-third of the agencies houses were destroyed. How can you expect people to defend themselves and help the government capture militants while living in tents?, asked Shah. Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said each displaced person will be paid Rs25,000 rupees and two months of rations on their return to South Waziristan. But dozens of community meetings with the government over the past few months have made little progress, tribal officials said, delays the government cant afford as it struggles to end contain Taliban suicide bombings in other parts of the country. The Taliban will definitely try to go back to South Waziristan. They are waiting for the army to withdraw or for the tribesmen to return and then they can hide among them. They are biding their time, said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Taliban expert.