Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Waziristan and Pakistan

Last year I wrote how Pakistan surrdendered control of Waziristan to the Taliban. Since then the Taliban have managed to take Bajaur and are threatening several other agencies. However, with mainstream media attention on Iraq, Iran, and maybe Afghanistan this theater of war is getting little coverage much like the War in Somalia did and still does.

Pakistan hoped local tribes would fight off al Qaeda but instead war has broken out between various branches of al Qaeda, the Taliban groups, and tribes. The alliance system is complex and somewhat hard to understand. The basic breakdown is Uzbek al Qaeda does not get along with Arab al Qaeda and the various groups of Taliban hate each other, too. Put them in the small area of Northwest Pakistan and war breaks out.

It is good that these groups are busy killing each other and not focusing all their efforts against Afghanistan or Pakistan; but the simple fact they are operating openly is a depressing reminder that the situation is not yet under control in the quite war's (Central Asia's) theater.

Pakistan is in trouble. The Taliban has long had support in Pakistan, one of three states to recognize the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Today the Talibanization of Pakistan is going on. At first it was attacks against the Shia minority in the country. Then it was battles against military police. Now the cultural war has begun with religious groups closing down music shops and threatening women's groups openly in the capital city of Islamabad. The Tourism minister is facing threats because she hugged a man not her husband. Things reached a climax last Friday with mosque calls demanding suicide bombings.

Pakistan's government comprised of military leaders is certainly not what America has envisioned for The Gap. However, it is far better now to have a government fight Islamic fascists a quarter of the time then have a Taliban, or God help us al Qaeda, government with nuclear weapons.

But Pakistan must learn to accept help if it wants to survive. Currently there are restrictions on when Coalition forces can operate in Taliban-controlled Pakistan. If the Surge in Iraq is teaching us anything it is that denying terrorists territory to control and regroup at significantly hurts their war effort. Pakistan must 1) allow for more cross-border operations and 2) fight the cultural war itself showing no mercy to those who seek to destroy it.

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