Pakistan responds to Taliban in Buner

NY Times:

Pakistani authorities on Thursday deployed special constabulary forces to a strategically important district only 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, that has come under the effective control of the Taliban in the last several days, police and residents said.

Four platoons of the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary police force, moved into the district at the request of the civilian commissioner of the area on Thursday, following four platoons that arrived Wednesday. At least one officer was killed and another seriously wounded in a clash with Taliban militants during the deployment, police said.

The fall of the district, Buner, did not mean that the Taliban could imminently threaten Islamabad. But it was another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency and it raised new alarm about the ability of the government to fend off an unrelenting Taliban advance toward the heart of Pakistan.

Buner, home to about one million people, is a gateway to a major Pakistani city, Mardan, the second largest in North-West Frontier Province, after Peshawar. The deploying platoons, each with about 40 officers, will be used to increase the Pakistani security presence in the region, but the poorly paid, poorly trained force was not expected to immediately challenge the Taliban militants, who, armed, with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, have erected checkpoints and intimidated local police, residents said, forcing them into their stations.

“They take over Buner, then they roll into Mardan and that’s the end of the game,” a senior law enforcement official in North-West Frontier Province said. He asked that his name be withheld because was not authorized to speak to the news media.

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This seems like a very weak response. The forces that were sent in are not very strong and the numbers sent are obviously inadequate to control the space in the face of a Taliban insurgency. It appears to be another halfhearted effort on the part of a weak government. Pakistan is going to have to do much more and soon. It needs to pull its troops from the India Kashmir border area and put them where the real threat to its existence lies.

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