Monday, June 9, 2008

Afghan-Pak border: the mess goes on

Ahmed Rashid and Xenia Dormandy, talking with Ray Suarez on the PBS Newshour tonight, painted a bleak picture, especially in Rashid's case, of recent developments in the northwest of Pakistan and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where the Pakistan army has been trying to co-opt certain militant groups. Those militants who seem more amenable to renouncing violence, at least within Pakistan, are promised in return (presumably) a cessation of operations against them by the military. The result, however, is a "creeping Talibanization" (Rashid's phrase) as these groups extend their political influence, and a rise in the number of Pakistani Taliban and Taliban sympathizers who are crossing the Afghan-Pakistan border and contributing to an increase in violent actions against NATO troops in Afghanistan. Rashid also criticized the Pakistani army for not sharing information and foreign policy decison-making power with the relatively new civilian government, which is itself in some disarray since Nawaz Sharif's party withdrew from the governing coalition.

Dormandy argued that the strategy of reaching deals with militants has to be given time to see if it works, but Rashid was skeptical, saying that in a recent visit he found the security situation in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar to be worse than that in Kabul. Rashid also spoke of a new summer offensive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. In short: the mess goes on.

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