Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Musharraf, the Taliban, & Few Good Choices

The Pakistani newspaper The International News, contains a very thorough and perceptive analysis of the problems facing General Musharraf as he tries to both support the coalition forces in their operations against the Taliban while simultaneously keeping closed the flood gates of anarchy in Pakistan:

If this spring is going to witness a bloodier battle between the Taliban and coalition forces, it is going to bring much greater fall out on Pakistan who does not have the means and capacity to secure such a long and porous border with Afghanistan and stop Taliban's movement on both sides. Facing the onslaught by the ISAF, Taliban are bound to retreat to their sanctuaries on both sides of the border forcing the Nato-led troops to hot pursuits across the Durand Line into Pakistan's tribal areas. This will further exacerbate the dilemma President Musharraf is facing: if he does the job himself, he alienates his own tribes; and if he lets the coalition forces do the killing on our territory he invites a big political backlash at home. And if the Taliban succeeds in causing greater casualties to the ISAF and expanding the insurgency to the broader regions with the support of the local people at the grassroots, the Musharraf government will be in trouble if it tries to go beyond its capacity to deliver what the coalition forces would fail to achieve.

Afghanistan is far bigger a quagmire than created by President Bush in Iraq. It can't be sorted out in a few years. Expecting quick results and victory by military means alone will be a big folly. In the meanwhile, Pakistan will have to clear its own deck. Let Islamabad clear all suspicions regarding its alleged soft corner for Taliban and persuade its own tribes to keep away from the fire the Taliban are igniting. And let General Musharraf clearly define his limits and scope of partnership in the war against terrorism. We don't have any option to clean up or neutralise our tribal areas. If we don't, others will do for us, even if we protest. The test is coming and it is too close now to the next general elections. A failure to do our job or partial success at a high cost will, in turn, expedite the change in the dynamics of political power in Pakistan which still faces a bigger challenge of whether it is going to become governable or not.
I highly recommend this article.

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