SWAT DISTRICT, Pakistan — The Swat valley, a picturesque region in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, was once a tourist destination. Two years ago, however, it became a Taliban haven when Maulana Fazlullah, a hardline cleric turned militant Taliban commander, launched a vicious campaign against the education of girls. Unlike much of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the east, along the 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan, the Swat valley has historically been known for the relatively liberal values and traditions of its people, as well as its mesmerizing natural scenery. When Buddhism was the primary influence in […]
In recent months, Pakistan’s new leaders have been insisting that U.S. forces were not conducting covert operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistan and that their government would never allow such missions. They have insisted that Pakistani regular troops and paramilitary forces could adequately deal with the insurgents and any high-value terrorist targets. According to a variety of sources, however, U.S. military forces, though not permanently based in Pakistan, continue to conduct military attacks from Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s loosely governed northwestern territories. On July 9, U.S. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of the […]
The recent clashes in eastern Afghanistan thrust the “forgotten war” back into the public eye. At a time when admittedly fragile stability is taking hold in Iraq, it is also an important reminder that the need for improved counterinsurgency capabilities neither began nor will end there. The international effort to stabilize Afghanistan is in peril, and the United States and its NATO allies lack many of the resources required to effectively secure and reconstruct that war-torn country. Against this backdrop, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s inauguration of the Civilian Response Corps is a very welcome development. The demands of large-scale […]
A propos whether success is possible in Afghanistan, Hampton forwarded me this Time article by Rory Stewart which is must reading. His arguments are specific to Afghanistan, a country he knows intimately from having walked across it in 2002, but also read as a manual of restraint and modesty in the conduct of foreign policy, especially when that foreign policy is increasingly outsourced to the military. I’m tempted to clip a paragraph or two, but instead I’ll just strongly encourage you to click through and read through to the end.
With the news that American intelligence has effectively linked Pakistan’s ISI intelligence/security apparatus to militants targeting American and Indian interests in Afghanistan, it’s become obvious that the only real differences between Pakistan and Iran are that, 1) Pakistan already has nuclear weapons while Iran is only allegedly pursuing them; 2) Pakistan is undermining our efforts in Afghanistan while Iran is operating mainly in Iraq; and 3) Pakistan has received $10 billion in American military aid over the past seven years while Iran is the target of American military contingency plans. It also bears mention that unlike Iran, where the central […]