Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pakistan update

The Pakistan Army is regaining ground from the Taliban in fierce fighting in the Swat valley although the Taliban abandoned the main city in the valley when they realized they were being encircled. The fighting has displaced 3.5 million civilians but the Army claims services are rapidly being restored in captured areas which will allow people to return to their homes.

The Taliban have been effective insurgent fighters in their own area but when the Pakistan government effectively ceded a large part of the Swat Valley to them they took this as a sign from god that the country was theirs for the taking. They then began to move into other areas where they met resistance from citizen militias newly armed by the Obama Adm. The Taliban reacted in their typically brutal fashion with the execution of civilians. This prompted the local population to heed the government’s warnings and flee the area creating a free fire zone for the army to move into.

The Taliban commanders should have read The Art of War or at least General Petraeus’s book on insurgent fighting. The Taliban could face being wiped out although the Pakistan Army has failed to trap them so far. Even if they manage to escape annihilation it will be some time before they are able to make a bid for domination. Recent events have galvanized the Pakistanis who now realize the threat to civilization that Taliban pose. Very few in Pakistan outside a handful of remote tribal areas want to return to the 12th century and are now galvanized against the radicals since videos of the Taliban torturing young girls has made it to the Internet.

The US has successfully maintained the pretense that they had nothing to do with recent military actions and that things unfolded in an unplanned cascade of events. It is unlikely that the Pakistan Army was capable of launching such a massive offensive without months of planning and support from the US. The collapse of the Taliban in Pakistan would make the stabilization of Afghanistan much more likely. It’s amazing how much better these things go when you have a Commander in Chief who sees the job as more than an excuse to play dress up.