WORLDPOST

Pakistani Taliban Moves to Within 60 Miles Of Islamabad

05/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I've been saying for years that the two pieces on the game board that matter to those who want a Caliphate are Pakistan, because of its nukes, and Saudi Arabia because of its oil. The realpolitik problem with the Afghani war is that it's destabilizing Pakistan so much -- Afghanistan falling to fundamentalists really doesn't matter that much, Pakistan doing so changes world geopolitics significantly.

The Taliban came to within 60 miles of Islamabad last week. What's also interesting about this is that it wasn't the military that fought them, it was a the police and a militia called up by the elders. Now, the timing of this is such that the military had a day to get to the district, and didn't bother, which given it's 60 miles from the capital of Pakistan, they certainly could have.

Isn't that... interesting. And while the accounts of the fight are somewhat ambiguous, it doesn't sound to me like the Taliban were forced to leave.

Is the military deliberately deciding to let the Taliban continue to put pressure on the civilian government? One does wonder, doesn't one? Or is morale too uncertain to risk against the Taliban? Or are they so overstretched they can't get a company 60 miles from the capital? Or does the "truce" mean that they've decided to completely write off the entire north and let the Taliban take it over unopposed, even when the citizens don't want it? Whichever it is, it isn't good.

Lots of folks assume that the Pakistani military is more than capable of crushing the Taliban whenever it wants. I don't know if that's true, but I suspect that as long as attacks on the Taliban are seen as doing America's work against their own countrymen, that the military is going to be both reluctant and somewhat crippled in doing so.

Furthermore, as Steve Hynd notes, in the areas it rules, the Taliban is a more effective government than the Pakistani government ever was. It is able to solve long standing problems Islamabad could not.

Escalating in Afghanistan is going to turn into the biggest mistake Obama makes in the foreign sphere. Not only is it a bleeding ulcer robbing America of troops and treasure it cannot afford to lose at this time, it may well lead to the fall of Pakistan.


(Go to the The Long War Journal and look at this map of Taliban control of Pakistan to get a visual picture of how much territory the central government has lost control of.)