Taliban losing war of ideas in Pakistan?
The Taliban and their extremist allies have been winning territory but losing hearts and minds in Pakistan, where they are meeting fresh resistance and polls show the broader population turning against them.There is much more.
The Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militant Islamic groups along the lawless border with Afghanistan have alienated the Pakistani public with harsh tactics even as they have seized more territory, said Latif Afridi, a politician in the unruly Northwest Frontier province.
"Ordinary people are fed up with Talibanization," Afridi said. "They have killed hundreds of people and have burned down homes."
Pakistan's government has sent 90,000 troops to drive militants from the tribal zone but has unable to stop the Taliban.In remote villages, militants are imposing a strict version of Islam: beheading moderate clerics and pro-government officials; closing girls schools; ordering women indoors; banning computers and TV; torching video stores; and bombing barbershops out of a belief that Muslim men should not be shaven.
The fight seems to be shifting:
•Some local militias have taken up arms against the Taliban's al-Qaeda-linked allies.
Early this year, tribal leaders backed by the Pakistani government, drove extremists from Uzbekistan from parts of South Waziristan, a border district. A similar campaign against foreign fighters began this week in North Waziristan, said military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad. Anti-Taliban tribal forces have attacked militants near the Khyber Pass, Afridi said.
"In the entire tribal area, people hate them," said Sailab Mahsud of the Tribal Union of Journalists.
•The percentage of Pakistanis supporting suicide bombings has fallen to 9% from 33% in 2002, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released in July.
•The percentage of Pakistanis who call extremism a serious problem for the country rose to 74% in August and September from 64% in June. One factor: terror attacks that followed the government's decision to storm a radical Islamabad mosque. The figures come from a poll of 4,009 Pakistanis by the International Republic Institute, democracy-promoting arm of the U.S. Republican Party.
Unfortunately the Pakistan army has not shown much skill in counterinsurgency warfare. If it gets those skills it should be able to take advantage of the disaffection for the Taliban and al Qaeda brutalities. They are making the same mistake in Pakistan they made in Iraq. The government needs to do a better job of taking advantage of those mistakes by going in with a program to protect the people. If they do, they will get the intelligence they need to destroy the enemy.
Bill Roggio says Pakistan is sending in more troops to the Swat area.