March 9, 2007


Pakistan is the priority (Anatol Lieven, March 8, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

[I]n the context of the "war on terror" as a whole, defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan is indeed a secondary issue. Of far greater long-term importance is the survival of Pakistan as a state, and its development as a successful modern society and economy.

The reasons for this should be obvious. Afghanistan has always been a backwater of the Muslim world. Pakistan is central to that world's future. It has six times Afghanistan's population, a powerful army and nuclear weapons. Pakistan's relations with India are critical to the peace and development of South Asia. The large Pakistani diaspora in Britain means that Islamist extremism in Pakistan reaches into the heart of the West.

A great deal of the Taliban's support comes from the Pashtun areas of Pakistan, whose people are closely linked to their co-ethnics in Afghanistan, and among whom hostility to the United States is overwhelming.

The Taliban are using these areas as safe havens from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan. This is understandably causing great anger and frustration in both the Afghan government and the West.

The danger is that if Taliban attacks intensify, and the prospect of Western victory recedes still further, the United States may react either with open military raids into Pakistan or by putting massive and successful pressure on the Pakistani government to launch an overwhelming military offensive against the Taliban and their local supporters in the Pashtun areas.

The very fact that Mr. Lieven has to refer to them as "Pashtun areas" and argue that Pakistan ought not be expected to assert control over them is a demonstration that they are not part of Pakistan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2007 9:16 AM
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