Pakistan’s Taliban Problem

The Times reports on the growing internal debate within the Bush administration over requests by American military commanders in Afghanistan for more operational leeway to go after Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Pakistan’s tribal frontier areas. The usual dilemma over the overall costs of more agressive tactics on Pakistan’s stability have been complicated by the fact that the new Pakistani coalition government is even more hostile to American intervention than Pervez Musharraf was. So far the discussion seems to center around targeted missile strikes from UAV’s, but that hardly seems like an adequate response to what’s basically a hostile local government entrenched in challenging terrain. In fact, I’m not even sure how effective the newly developed American COIN tactics would be, given that the tribal areas are largely autonomous and broadly supportive of the Taliban, as opposed to an internal insurgency. But even if the COIN tactics did apply, we quite obviously don’t have the manpower to apply them.

Meanwhile, as Asia Times online reports, the Taliban just released video of a captured Pakistani minister, probably to force the government’s hand in ransom negotiations. But since the Taliban’s demands are unreasonable, it just might be the nudge that Islamabad needs to declare outright war on the frontier. Unlikely, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Taliban and al-Qaida overreached.

Finally, to put the entire issue into context, the pressing security concerns on the Afghan border were not enough to stop Pakistan from test firing a surface to surface ICBM with a range of 2,000 km not once, but twice this week. Good to know where the Pakistani militaries priorities are.