Islamabad needs to get serious about Taliban threat
If the Indian Army advanced within 60 miles of Islamabad, you can bet Pakistan’s army would be fully mobilized and defending the country in pitched battles. Yet when the Taliban got that close to the capital on Friday, pushing into the key district of Buner, Pakistani authorities sent only several hundred poorly equipped and underpaid constabulary forces.This is pretty consistent with what I have been saying for months. It also probably reflects the Obama administrations current view of the situation.
On Sunday, security forces were reported to be beginning a push back. The latest advance by the Taliban is one more frightening reminder that most Pakistanis — from top civilian and military leaders to ordinary citizens — still do not fully understand the mortal threat that the militants pose to their fragile democracy. And one more reminder to Washington that it can waste no time enabling such denial.
Pakistanis don’t have to look far to see what life would be like under Taliban rule. Since an army-backed peace deal ceded the Swat Valley to the militants, the Taliban have fomented class revolt and terrorized the region by punishing “un-Islamic” activities like dancing and girls’ attending school. The more territory Pakistan cedes to the extremists, the more room the Taliban and Al Qaeda will have to launch attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.And — most frightening of all — if the army cannot or will not defend its own territory against the militants, how can anyone be sure it will protect Pakistan’s 60 or so nuclear weapons?
On Friday, even as Mr. Kayani insisted “victory against terror and militancy will be achieved at all costs,” he defended the Swat deal. On Sunday, government officials insisted again that the deal remained in force despite obvious Taliban violations. Mr. Kayani complains that his troops lack the right tools to take on the militants, including helicopters and night-vision goggles. The army should have used some of the $12 billion it received from Washington over the last seven years to do just that, instead of spending the money on equipment and training to go after India. The next round of aid should include these items but also require that they be used to fight the militants.Pakistan’s weak civilian leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari and the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, are complicit in the dangerous farce, wasting energy on political rivalries. They must persuade General Kayani to shift at least part of his focus and far more resources away from the Indian border to the Afghan border.
Currently Pakistan is back to its old game of doing the minimum to keep the US money flowing. Its operations in Dir are being exaggerated by both Pakistan and the Taliban. But, it is the same old deal of sending the army in to kill a few Taliban and then you can expect them to either pull back or strike a deal that they think will satisfy the US. The problem is, at this point, that the Pakistan government is largely motivated by fear of losing US financial support and not be fear of losing to the Taliban. Until they are motivated by the latter they are not likely to act aggressively and consistently in dealing with the real threat to Pakistan.
Why don't they fear the Taliban? I suspect it is because the Taliban are a creature of their on creation and they do not comprehend the danger of not resisting them.