September 18, 2008


A wild frontier: It will take more than American missiles to bring order to Pakistan’s north-western border region (The Economist, 9/18/07)

The border remains a militant thoroughfare. And in Pakistan, Taliban-style militancy has spread deep into the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and beyond. In the past year some 1,500 Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism and insurgency, mostly in or emanating from the north-west. On September 6th, as an electoral college chose Asif Zardari as Pakistan’s president, a suicide-bomber drove into a police check-post in Peshawar, NWFP’s capital, killing 37. A few days earlier bearded gunmen ambushed an American diplomat in the city, spraying her car with bullets.

No wonder Mr Zardari, Pakistan’s first civilian leader in nine years, says the Taliban have the “upper hand” in Pakistan. Mr Bush seems to agree. By ordering unilateral American action, he presumably hoped to goad the Pakistani army to do better, and also to kill a few al-Qaeda types, including Osama bin Laden, the most famous of all supposed frontier tourists, before his presidency ends in January.

Mr Bush’s new aggression was first unveiled on September 3rd with an American airborne assault on the village of Jala Khel, in South Waziristan, which, American officials claimed, killed a score of al-Qaeda militants. The army and journalists in Pakistan said the victims were civilians. The army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani—hand-picked and American-approved successor in that job of America’s former ally, Pervez Musharraf—denounced the attack and vowed to defend Pakistan’s territory “at all cost”, and an army spokesman said American invaders would be shot. Mr Zardari’s government also vowed to defend Pakistan’s borders. It had little choice: one recent poll showed that four-fifths of Pakistanis oppose America’s striking al-Qaeda within their territory.

But neither Mr Zardari’s government nor Mr Bush’s can afford an out-and-out rift.

Mr. Zardari can't, but why can't we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2008 1:33 PM
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