Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Pakistan's anti-Taliban offensive coming too late?

Interviewed from Islamabad tonight on the NewsHour, Pamela Constable of the Wash Post said she thinks the current offensive is an indication that leading elements of the Pakistani government and army are beginning to take the Taliban threat seriously. But have they left it too late? The answer may not be known for some time. It also sounds, from what Constable said, as if the Taliban's strategy of playing on class divisions to increase its appeal may be reaching a limit. Again, probably too soon to tell.

Meanwhile, the joint appearance of the three presidents (Obama, Zardari, and Karzai) somehow was not the kind of photo op that inspires enormous confidence. Despite some apparent American flirtation with Nawaz Sharif, however, there don't appear to be any very obvious alternative leaders in the wings.


Anonymous said...

Any military strategy is going to be only one part of the larger struggle over what kind of state/society Pakistan is going to end up being. I think Pakistani civil society actors are going to be very important in determining how influential the Taliban is going to be over there. The naivete about the Taliban seems be wearing off in parts of Swat, but not so sure about other parts of the country. Here's the deal: the Taliban will seem attractive for many who are disgruntled over various aspects of Pakistani politics and the failure of Politicians to deliver on their promises. Pakistani civil society will need to counter Taliban strategy and ideology to capture civil society institutions in the short term. Long term is a whole another story...but will ultimately need to involve a fundamental restructuring of state-civil society relations...sorry but I will need about a month and a lot more space to elaborate on this. I guess what I am trying to say is that we need to pay attention to the less sexier but equally important terrain of civil society in our analysis of the advance of the Taliban in Pakistan.

LFC said...

I look forward to your elaboration of this.

hank_F_M said...

Pragmatic Euphony of
Indian National Interest
has interesting comments.

The Pakistan armed forces have launched a ferocious assault on the jehadi positions in Swat and surrounding areas. Reports suggest that heavy artillery, fighter air crafts and helicopter gunships have been used against the jehadi positions. Any one familiar with this kind of weaponry would be aware of the kind of collateral damage caused by such attacks.Snip

Pakistan army’s track record in all its wars against India has proved that it is incapable of successfully waging a conventional war. The recent action in Swat confirms that it is incapable of even conceptluasing and planning, forget about winning, a counterinsurgency conflict.The author is a former Indian Army with prejudices one would expect, but on strictly military items he is an excellent analyst.

I think there is till time if Pakistan makes a political commitment, gets popular support from the population of the other provinces, is willing to risk major withdrawals from its eastern border (most likely safer than the Pakistanis think, India wants nothing of that mess if can avoid it,) and a makes reasonable plan for a long term clear and build mission it could win. That is four low probability events.

From our side the if this is successful Taliban forces will be driven back into Afghanistan where we will have to deal with them. If we can dseal with them there will be long term prospects for a good solution. If not . . .

LFC said...

I am a little -- but only a little -- more optimistic. Of the 4 'low-probability' events, (1) and (2) seem within reach, (3) and (4) seem less so. Zardari had an interesting interview w/ Margaret Warner on the NewsHour the other night. She pressed him on some of these points and at the end he called her (smiling) "a tough lady." Zardari insisted that all necessary troops are being committed to the fight in Swat but the interview didn't get into specific numbers beyond his saying Pakistan's army has roughly 125,000 (i think he said) in the region.
As for the ex-Indian-army analyst, he may be right, but isn't one of the basic principles of military analysis that, generally speaking, you can't judge an operation on the basis of the first day or two? To quote Nexon, I am not a 'guns-and-bombs security scholar,' so I'm just wondering aloud here...