United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Pakistan for talks on combating the Taliban. Upon his arrival, the Pakistani army said that it wont launch any new offensives against militants for six months to a year so that the army can have time to stabilize existing gains.

The political, cultural, and economic problems in Pakistan are overshadowed by the security situation. While the neighboring Afghani Taliban’s struggle against the West remains highly popular among average Pakistan citizens, the Pakistani Taliban has lost much of it’s former credence. However, the Pakistani Taliban still benefits from emulating the fighters in the Afghan campaign. While the average Pakistani worries that the Pakistani Taliban may be too violent, many within Pakistan welcome the idea of Taliban-style cultural practices such as their enforced dress codes, and swift justice. Such attractions reflect Pakistan’s Deobandi sensibilities.

Read the rest of this entry »

In April 2009, the Pakistani government launched its largest offensive yet against Islamist militants in the region known as Swat Valley.

A few hours drive north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, Swat was once Pakistan’s most appealing tourist destination. Residents lived under a mix of tribal and sharia law augmented with rudimentary military control that was first established by the British. The leading member of the valley’s most powerful family was effectively a regional tribal king that enjoyed the title of Wali. Wali rule ended at the time of Pakistani independence in 1947, when Swat acquiesced to Pakistan. However, Swat didn’t become completely integrated into Pakistan until 1969 when the last Wali officially retired his authority.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Taliban Revisited

December 29, 2009

There has been a lot of talk in American news media over the past month about the concept of “good” and “bad” Taliban. This nuance in American national dialogue was diffused in some measure by President Barack Obama’s stated desire to send more troops to Afghanistan in part to help keep conflict there from spilling over into Pakistan. Mr. Obama and his administration have spent a great deal of time discussing with the American people Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with militancy and radicalism, as well as, Pakistan’s past tolerance of members of what has come to be termed the Pakistani Taliban.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last evening, President Obama announced his plan for the United States’ ongoing war effort in Afghanistan. His strategy includes 30,000 additional American troops, and a withdrawal date of mid-2011.

The exit strategy put forth by Mr. Obama can be understood as an ultimatum to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Essentially, Mr. Obama is telling Mr. Karzai that the government reforms called for must be put in place quickly. Mr. Obama is trying to instill a sense of urgency. It is a calculated risk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Al Qaeda Strikes Back

October 23, 2009

Violence that has been defined as terrorism is usually perpetrated in relation to the political dynamics of a culture or society. Terrorism can thus be viewed as a mechanism of change used by those who feel powerless and seek to undermine the status quo or the understood power of a marked group. To recruit future members, dissident groups use shows of force, coercion, rhetoric, and iconography to utilize any radical discourse already existing within the social or political sphere of a given society. The terrorist network al Qaeda has effectively merged Islamist ideology and the Salafi movement to encourage religiously motivated militants into assisting their cause.

Al Qaeda has suffered setbacks since 9/11. It’s original figurehead, Osama bin Laden, has lost some of his influence within the network: The franchises in Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa have at times openly rebelled against his preferred strategies of attack. Others among the network’s top operatives are also politically impotent while they remain in hiding. Many of the most experienced have been killed. The network has thus far failed in its attempts to overthrow the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Perhaps most importantly, al Qaeda has seen the majority of its monetary assets frozen. Al Qaeda made four public appeals for money within the first six months of 2009. This tells analysts that al Qaeda’s ability to dominate the direction of insurgencies within Asia and the Middle East is waning. But does this mean the network is currently weak? In a word, no. The al Qaeda network is perhaps more dangerous than it has ever been.

Read the rest of this entry »

A strengthening alliance of militant groups working out of Pakistan continue to perpetrate attacks against governmental and security forces both inside and surrounding the country’s borders. Punjabi extremist groups are perpetrating bold attacks in concert with the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda.

It is a goal of these insurgents operating within Pakistan to divert NATO attention away from the insurgent’s camps and power centers. The insurgents are doing this to allow themselves time to regroup. The militants have capitalized on American attention being distracted by the Afghanistan elections. The insurgents have also begun to look for ways to encourage future distractions. Using groups like Jundullah to cause renewed tension with Iran over the weekend is but one example. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: