Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Crisis in Pakistan: Introduction

Part 1 of a 6 part essay on the growing threat of the Taliban in Pakistan and how to combat it

Ever since the shocking, saddening events of September 11, 2001, U.S. policy has been dominated by an array of initiatives known collectively as the “war on terror.” Though enacted with good intentions, the “war on terror” has generated more controversy than it has palpable results. It has embroiled the United States in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has left it increasingly isolated in international affairs.[1] It has undermined the foundations not only of American ideals but of American law as well.[2] All the while, Islamic extremism has arguably gained in popularity, and the very groups that are responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks – Al Qaeda and the Taliban – have eluded destruction and are more powerful than ever.

How ironic it would be if the most direct consequence of the “war on terror” was the overthrow of a government by Muslim extremists and the destabilization of a nuclear-armed country. With the Taliban gaining full control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan last February[3] and advancing to within 60 miles of Islamabad just a few months ago[4] – moving much faster and over a wider area than in any of their previous incursions – such a catastrophe seems to be looming just over the horizon.

Pakistan has long been the geopolitical thorn in the side of the “war on terror.” The South Asian Muslim nation had been the Taliban’s most valuable supporter[5] prior to the September 11th attacks, and after the NATO invasion of Afghanistan, the remnants of the Taliban were able to avoid total destruction by migrating across the porous Afghan-Pakistani border and finding refuge in the mountainous, loosely governed regions of Pakistan’s northwest.[6] Although the United States was able to coax an ambivalent Pakistan into supporting its “war on terror,” the Pakistani Army was unwilling and unable to launch a concerted offensive to eradicate the Taliban once and for all.[7] As a result, Taliban militants were able to regroup and begin their expansion inside Pakistan that now has brought them within 60 miles of Pakistan’s capital.

[1] http://www.icosgroup.net/modules/reports/chronic_failures_war_terror/exec_summary
[2] http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/26684res20060906.html
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/16/AR2009021601063.html
[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/22/AR2009042200863.html
[5] http://www.cfr.org/publication/10551/
[6] http://www.cfr.org/publication/14905/troubled_afghanpakistani_border.html
[7] http://www.cfr.org/publication/14905/troubled_afghanpakistani_border.html

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another excellent posting. I very much like the way you source your claims -- that sets you apart from other bloggers. How would you link the situation in Pakistan to the situation in Afghanistan?

Ryan said...

This is a very interesting read. You've done your research and spent time on this, it's great!

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Foreign Affairs Guru said...

Thank you all for your kind comments, and thank you Ryan for linking back to me.

I think that the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan are closely intertwined and feed on each other. With the Afghan-Pakistani border so easy to cross, the Taliban have been able to establish bases in Pakistan from which to attack and infiltrate Afghanistan. Indeed, with Pashtuns living on both sides of the border, it appears that there is no border at all. The ethnically Pashtun Taliban draw the bulk of their support from Pashtuns on either side of the border. Although the Afghani Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban have different leaders with slightly different agendas, they have nevertheless cooperated with each other to fight against their respective enemies. They have doubtless supplied each other, shared information, and coordinated certain tactics, the most prominent being the disruption of U.S. convoys traveling through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

I hope to publish a thorough piece on Afghanistan soon, but I think I will do a piece on the situation in Iran first.

Thanks again for your comment!

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Anonymous said...

What you think about news - GOPers Hold 'Prayercast' to Ask God to Stop Health Reform ?
Wanna hear your opinion

Foreign Affairs Guru said...

In response to your question, anonymous, I really don't like it one bit. It seems like just another way that the GOP is trying to demonize legislation it opposes rather than to try to work constructively with the Democrats on key issues.

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