AMERICA made clear last week that it would attack Taliban forces in their Swat valley stronghold unless the Pakistan government stopped the militants’ advance towards Islamabad.
A senior Pakistani official said the Obama administration intervened after Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 60 miles from the capital.
The Pakistani Taliban’s inroads raised international concern, particularly in Washington, where officials feared that the nuclear-armed country, which is pivotal to the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda, was rapidly succumbing to Islamist extremists.
“The implicit threat - if you don’t do it, we may have to - was always there,” said the Pakistani official. He said that under American pressure, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency told the Taliban to withdraw from Buner on Friday.
However, reports yesterday indicated that the Taliban withdrawal was less than total. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people in the district were still at the mercy of armed militants and their restrictive interpretation of Islamic law.
American military and intelligence forces already run limited ground and air operations on Pakistani soil along the border with Afghanistan. But an overt military operation such as that threatened in Swat, away from the border, would mark a major escalation.
Those banging the drums are primarily the new hawks of the administration--Secretary Clinton, General Petraeus, and Admiral Mullen--but it is impossible to believe that they do not speak for President Obama, and that Pakistani government does not believe that either:
These remarks have stung Pakistan. Husain Haqqani, the ambassador to Washington, accused the Obama administration of making it harder for his country to fight the Taliban.
“The US needs to relate its comments to the ground realities in Pakistan instead of the mood in Washington,” he said. “Most Pakistanis are not supportive of the Taliban way of life, but at the same time widespread anti-Americanism confuses many Pakistanis into having a conflicting view.
“We want to turn that view around but the US and its leaders must help us to do that.”
Yeah, that's what we need: a major war in two failed states at the end of a logistical lifeline extending through Iran, Russia, China, and India.