Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taliban Aggression in Pakistan Demonstrates How Islamists Treat Agreements

Let's expand on Lowell's previous post, for those readers who may not have been following the news from Pakistan.

On April 13, Pakistan's feckless President, Asif Ali Zardari, signed a law allowing the Taliban to impose its own brand of sharia--Islamic law--within the Swat Valley in Northwest Pakistan, an area controlled by Taliban militias. Pakistan entered into this agreement, basically ceding away part of its territory, because Pakistani Taliban militants and their Al Qaeda allies, who had conducted a brutal two-year insurgency, torching, bombing and forcing the closure of hundreds of girls’ schools while carrying out violent attacks against civilian opponents and police, promised that they would observe a ceasefire if they could enforce shari’a in the NWFP district that encompasses Swat. Following the treaty, the Taliban quickly asserted complete control over the area, driving out Pakistani government officials, and forbidding appeals from the decisions of its courts to the Pakistani state courts.

Before the ink was even dry, however, Taliban militias expanded their operations, taking control of the neighboring district of Buner, only 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamibad. In recent days, pro-Taliban clerics in recent days have staged rallies in Swat and Islamibad, calling for the imposition of sharia across all of Pakistan.

Keep in mind that the Constitution of Pakistan already declares that the official name of the nation is "the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," that Islam is the state religion, that the President and Prime Minister must be Moslems, and that "[a]ll existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Qur'an and Sunnah and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions." Therefore, what the Taliban is seeking to impose, not only in the Swat Valley but across Pakistan, is its own Islamist vision of sharia, which sanctions the total suppression of women in the manner displayed during the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan.

It may seem strange that the government in command the world's sixth-largest army, staffed and equipped to face off against the powerful armed forces of India, can be helpless against perhaps a few hundred militia armed with automatic rifles. The sad truth of the matter is that until now the government of Pakistan has been afraid to suppress the Taliban insurrection, for fear that much of his citizenry and its armed forces sympathize with the Islamists. Indeed, the Taliban in Pakistan is a Frankenstein monster--created by the Pakistani army and intelligence services in order to install a friendly regime in Afghanistan, it has now turned on its creator.

[Contrary to the careless and ignorant allegations of the American Left, the Taliban was neither created, nor fostered by the U.S. to oppose the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban came into existence under the midwifery of the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, during the chaotic period that followed the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan.]

However, this time the Taliban may have overreached. The blatant violation of the ceasefire and its takeover of Buner seem to have unified the fractious Pakistani citizenry against them. Today, there are reports of a Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban militia. The press already is reporting significant victories by the Pakistani forces against the Taliban militias.

The United States appears to have played a positive role in implanting some backbone in the Pakistani government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that the United States viewed the Taliban's activities to be a strategic threat not only to Pakistan, but to world peace, because it placed Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at risk of falling into Taliban control.

Indeed, one Pakistani English-language newspaper reports that the U.S. made clear that if Pakistan failed to act against the Taliban, the U.S. would launch attacks against the Taliban in the Swat Valley.

I would love to believe the latter report. It would greatly increase my confidence in the Obama Administration's foreign and defense policy. Can this report of a "get tough" warning to Pakistan be reconciled with the expressed desire of the Obama Administration to open talks with "moderate" members of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Perhaps. It is well known that Afghanistan is less a nation state than a collection of tribes and clans, led by various war lords. The U.S. experience during the invasion of Afghanistan from March through May of 2003, which overthrew the Afghani Taliban regime, proved that tribal and clan leaders could be peeled away from their loyalties to the Taliban regime through bribes and inducements--in short, they could be bought. Some of the most significant "conquests" by the Northern Alliance during the overthrow of the Taliban came without the firing of a shot, when supposed Taliban loyalists switched sides overnight and simply turned their towns and their troops over to the Northern Alliance.

Of course, loyalty that is bought may always be bought back--but that' s just politics in Afghanistan, which probably have not changed a great deal since the time of Kim and the British Raj. If that sort of initiative is what the Obama Administration has in mind, then the charge of appeasement is misplaced.

What would be appeasement, and what the U.S. must avoid, is the sort of ceasefire agreement that the Pakistani government entered into, which compromised Pakistani sovereignty and security in return for an empty promise. As is being demonstrated as I write, the Pakistani government and its armed forces are overwhelmingly more powerful than the Taliban, if they are willing to use their strength, but for that very reason the willingness of Pakistan to make concessions in return for a ceasefire was read by the Taliban as a sign of weakness, and the signal to push further ahead in its campaign to take over the entire nation.

And what is true in Pakistan is equally true for the U.S. in dealing with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. That is of course why Israel must, and will, resist pressure from the Obama Administration and the E.U. to take security risks in order to achieve some intangible momentum in the so-called peace process. Every Israeli has family members and friends who have been victims of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorism. They know that appeasement carries a real price.
[Photo credit and link: AP]


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