The Peshawar Taliban

Washington Times:

The Islamic fundamentalist threat to Pakistan is reaching frightening proportions as Taliban militants infiltrate the key city of Peshawar, boldly attacking military headquarters and NATO supply routes and seeking to spread Islamic rule.

Taliban militants who have been tightening their control outside Peshawar for months have for the first time been patrolling inside the city of 3 million, several eyewitnesses told The Washington Times. The militants last week attacked NATO transit terminals on the Ring Road, a key thoroughfare, and kidnapped officials within the city, including a deputy superintendent of police.

Peshawar is a new front line for Pakistan in the struggle to contain the Taliban. Just two hours by car from Islamabad, Peshawar is the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and sits astride the route through which 75 percent of NATO supplies for Afghanistan pass.

Fazal Rahim Marwat, a senior associate of the provincial ruling Awami National Party, acknowledged the challenges and said the provincial government has diverted most of its developmental budget for fiscal 2008-09 to building the capacity of its security forces. He said the situation has deteriorated significantly since a recent agreement by three top Pakistani Taliban commanders to unite.

"What is happening in Peshawar and Khyber Agency is the outcome of this development," he said. "It is a big concern that the Pakistan-Afghanistan route has become quite dangerous for people. ... Recently, the militants have forcibly closed the road, which never happened earlier. Not only NATO, but Pakistan has lost a lot due to the problem with the Pakistan-Afghanistan road, as the $2 billion trade between the two countries has also been significantly reduced."

NWFP Inspector General of Police Malik Naveed told Geo TV on Wednesday that "we have built up our capacity in the last one year, and the strength of our forces have significantly increased, and they are now ready to deliver."

However, he added that to defeat the Taliban in the region, the provincial government needs more weapons, training of elite forces and enhanced salaries for security personnel.

...

Pakistan is trying to do this alone when they should be accepting the boots on the ground help from NATO and the US. Their failure to do so is a missed opportunity for all who oppose the Taliban. Even without that we should expand UAV flights to cover the route and attack Taliban units that are trying to control it.

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