The Af/Pak Knot Isn't Getting Any Easier To Unentangle

This Sunday, Steve Croft of 60 Minutes reported on the state of the insurgency in Pakistan, explaining it as a concerted attempt by Islamists to tak

This Sunday, Steve Croft of 60 Minutes reported on the state of the insurgency in Pakistan, explaining it as a concerted attempt by Islamists to take over that nation. He even spoke to President Zardari:

Asked how important it is to stop extremism, President Zardari told Kroft, "It’s important enough. I lost my wife to it. My children's mother, the most populist leader of Pakistan. It's important to stop them and make sure that it doesn't happen again and they don't take over our way of life. That's what they want to do."

..."Right now, you have a situation in the Swat area. It’s only three hours from Islamabad where the Taliban is very strong there," Kroft remarked. "How did that happen?"

"It's been happening over time. And it's happened out of denial. Everybody was in denial that they're weak and they won't be able to take over. That, they won't be able to give us a challenge. And our forces weren't increased. And therefore we have weaknesses. And they are taking advantage of that weakness," Zardari explained.

Also on Sunday, news came of Pakistani attempts to sign a truce with the Taliban, one that would involve Sharia supplanting Pakistani national laws there. Pakistani officials deny any disconnect between Zardari's warning of an existential threat and the peace deal: "We are not compromising with militants, instead trying to isolate the militants, and for that I do not think America will have any objection," said Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi - but previous such truces, which were meant to end Islamist terror attacks which have plagued Pakistan, have swiftly collapsed because the Taliban know they are winning and can keep demanding concessions. Large chunks of Pakistan are now in Taliban control, and there seems to be no will in the ruling Pakistani feudal elite to seriously contest that.

Indeed, the will of the Pakistani elite may well be largely in favor of Taliban control. A disconnect between word and action exists whether Pakistani officials want to admit it or not and it shouldn't be forgotten that the Taliban and other regional Islamist militant groups are largely the making of Pakistan's ISI spy service and army in the first place. Pakistan has long conducted its foreign policy in the region by the use of these proxies and may now have "gone native", casting in their lot with their creations while pretending otherwise to ward of Western anger and to gain US military aid. Chair of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen thinks he's building trust with Zardari - the most corrupt politician in a land rife with them - and Army chief Kyani - who was the head of the ISI while their Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a 2006 bombing spree in Mumbai and planned the 2008 attacks. One wonders how someone so gullible could rise to his position.

Even so, reaching for the military as the right hammer for every nail, especially every Pakistani nail, is unwise. Over 80% of Pakistanis see the "War on Terror" as a Western concern, one their feudal leaders have un-necessarily enmeshed themselves in. Poking the hornets nest with a stick accomplishes nothing except stirring up hornets and if the US keeps poking Pakistan, intelligence analysts have warned, its most likely just to turn that disaproval into outright anger and hasten an extremist takeover.

Meanwhile, across the border in Afghanistan, the hawks' plan for a generations-long occupation there is hitting some snags too. President Karzai has lost patience with Western leaders who talk about caring but don't seem to care enough to stop causing civilian casualties. He's indicated that he'd like to see a timetable for withdrawal and in return the Obama administration has indicated it would like to see him gone, replaced by someone more malleable and (hopefully) less corrupt in the wrong ways. Karzai said Sunday that he believed rumors about his alleged drug-lord brother were being circulated by the US to drive Karzai himself from office and he's doing some outreach to the Russians instead.

The Af/Pak knot isn't getting any easier to unentangle, but one thing is for sure - saying "trust us, we're the good Romans", as Admiral Mullen and others advocate, isn't going to help cut it.

Crossposted from Newshoggers

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