Pakistan’s Dilemma

Pakistani military in tribal areas
Pakistani military in tribal areas

A divided policy for ‘good’ Taliban and ‘bad’ Taliban has backfired.

By Mahendra Ved.

On June 15, the Sharif government of Pakistan launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a newly comprehensive military initiative involving some 30,000 troops designed to flush out insurgents hiding in its Northern areas. The Islamic state, tugged in many directions by factional politics, has a complicated relationship with militants. Pakistan has long been permissive of terrorist agitators from Afghanistan, China, and India who are currently hiding within Pakistan’s borders. This latest operation, launched in response to failed peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and a subsequent attack on Karachi airport that killed 26, indicates that more than one key player in Pakistan will not tolerate armed factions that refuse to play nicely.

This year is bound to prove crucial for parts of Central Asia. By the year’s end the United States-led NATO forces will draw down to a mere 12,000 troops, leaving behind a veritable mess: a weak political system, a fledgling economy dependent on foreign funding, and total dependence of the Afghan people on state security system in the face of a resurgent Taliban. Little seems to have changed 13 years after 9/11 and the start of the “global war on terror” against al-Qaeda that brought the U.S. and later NATO to Afghanistan.

In addition, the situation just to the West does not bode well for security in the region. Iran’s on-again-off-again nuclear deal, war clouds over Syria, and the Sunni Islamist insurgency in Iraq all threaten to ignite the fervor of neighboring extremists. In the light of the fires burning nearby, the Af.-Pak. region promises to be a graveyard of the former U.S.-NATO military presence. Whatever the claims and counter-claims of an elusive military victory over the Taliban in the region, the effort of nation building in Afghanistan seems to have largely-failed.

The only change in geopolitics that seems certain is that the state is now at the receiving end, even facing existential threat. The real players calling the shots are the non-state actors—various affiliates of al-Qaeda that have …

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