Taliban pushes Pakistan to the brink

From The National Post April 24:

Taliban fighters have taken control of strategic sites and could strike at Pakistan's largest dam and sites holding nuclear weapons.ReutersTaliban fighters have taken control of strategic sites and could strike at Pakistan’s largest dam and sites holding nuclear weapons.

Pakistan tottered on the edge of a precipice this week as the Taliban made a concerted push into mountain districts that overlook Islamabad.

Near panic seized Pakistan’s allies, as masked and heavily armed Taliban terrorists invaded the Buner district, just 115 kilometres northwest of the capital Islamabad, overran government offices, looted foreign aid agencies and established makeshift sharia courts that banned everything from music to shaving.

The strategic consequences of the invasion are immense.

It exposed far more than Pakistan’s fragility or Islamabad’s vulnerability. It thrust the worst possible doomsday scenario to centre stage.

The Taliban, backed by al-Qaeda, are now established in a district that straddles two crucial targets.

Just 50 kilometres southeast of Buner lies the Tarbela Dam, the largest earth-filled dam in the world. It provides central Pakistan with most of its electricity and the country’s farmers with most of their water.

Thirty kilometres further on lies the Wah Cantonment, an army ordinance complex that produces almost all of Pakistan’s weapons and military supplies – including nuclear weapons – in a collection of 14 massive factories that employ up to 40,000 people.

According to some reports, Wah is the chief storage and maintenance site for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal and it may also house a uranium enrichment plant that was built in the 1990s with assistance from China.

In addition to menacing Pakistan’s capital, the Taliban and al-Qaeda can now spread out into the seven other districts surrounding Buner and threaten to destabilize Pakistan’s economy, while continuing their quest to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

On Friday, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was “extremely concerned” by the Taliban’s recent advances in Pakistan.

“We’re certainly moving closer to the tipping point,” where Pakistan could be overtaken by Islamic extremists, he said.

“The situation there is definitely worse than it was two weeks ago,” he added. “It just continues to spin off.”

Two days earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, blasted the Pakistani government for “abdicating” to the Taliban, saying Pakistan now presents “a mortal threat” to the rest of the world.

“[We] cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state,” she said.

The Wah Cantonment was targeted by the Taliban last summer, when two suicide bombers tried to enter the factory complex simultaneously at different gates during an afternoon shift change. When they were stopped by security, the men blew themselves up, killing 70 people and wounding 1,000 others.

On Friday, Pakistani newspapers reported security personnel at the Tarbela Dam were put on alert following the invasion of Buner.

More significant perhaps is the fact that last month Indian security services issued a similar alert – only they feared Pakistani terrorists were poised to bomb two large Indian dams, the Bhakra and Nangal, in Himachal Pradesh.

India’s Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing are said to have intercepted a mobile phone conversation discussing the proposed dam attacks between members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (The Army of the Pure), a radical Islamist group allied to the Taliban which is believed responsible for last November’s suicide guerrilla attacks on Mumbai.

Short of actually obtaining nuclear weapons, a worst case scenario for the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be for the terrorist groups to establish themselves in safe enclaves in northern and northwestern Pakistan from which they could continue to carry out attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the West.

Pakistan’s Taliban already shelters al-Qaeda’s leaders, fuels the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, destabilizes Pakistan’s northwest frontier tribal areas, controls international terrorist training camps and wages car bomb and suicide attacks as well as assassinations inside the country.

“If present trends persist, the next generation of the world’s most sophisticated terrorists will be born, indoctrinated and trained in a nuclear-armed Pakistan,” warns Daniel Markey, a South Asian specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Friday, the Taliban temporarily withdrew from Buner, after the government threatened to use force to remove them. But locals say the Islamists still occupy bunkers in the mountains and can easily reassert themselves.

For now, by expanding their influence deep into the heart of Pakistan, the Taliban have underlined the strength of their insurgency and driven a wedge between Washington and the Pakistani government.

Washington and Islamabad are already at loggerheads over a Pakistani peace deal with the Taliban in the Swat valley, which agreed to introduce sharia law in exchange for promises to end an 18-month old insurgency in which Taliban terrorists beheaded their opponents, burnt girls’ schools and enforced strict social codes.

U.S. perceptions of the Pakistani government as confused, ineffective and reluctant to attack groups responsible for violence are balanced by a growing belief by Pakistanis that the U.S. “war on terror” is threatening to tear their own country apart.

This week, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the pro-Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Islamic Party of Religious Leaders) complained in Pakistan’s parliament that the entire country risks being engulfed in terrorism, if Pakistan persists in supporting the United States.

“If the Taliban continue to move at this pace, they will soon be knocking at the doors of Islamabad, as the Margala Hills seem to be the only hurdle in their march towards the federal capital,” he said.

National Post

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About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

2 Replies to “Taliban pushes Pakistan to the brink”

  1. I remember reading a series of novels years ago by jerry ahern, about some guy who survived a nuclear war. That possiblity seemed to have faded away but now it’s back with a vengeance.

  2. To me this topic only purpose is that to confuse the situation or to make a possible public opinion Most people in the US Congress are unaware of the devastating impacts of their Foreign policies in Pakistan. They are using decades old tactics of military and economic they wont work period

    i don’t agree with this the report is not based on any true intelligence reporting this article has largely based on pure speculation try interlink to 2 piece of news to make the 1+1=3 i am not a expert but aware enough to understand international relation as i from pakistan Lahore studying accountancy but religiously flow the international news and study AF-PAK-IND history ,but i would like to make some point u cant win this (war) this is war for U but invasion for people living in AFG even in Pakistan
    what people believe is that , The West has given many descriptions to its battles (they don’t like our freedoms, WMD, regime change, need for democracy etc.) and the people of the region have tried to expose them as having a hidden agenda (security of Israel, control of oil, crusade, muslim bashing etc.)

    BUT you need understand is that In Afghanistan the Taliban are resisting US and NATO presence. As there is no unified or disciplined command they are typically acting like uncontrolled guerrilla groups where a leader has a random group of raiders and their own laws. War lords are also calling themselves Taliban and so are the drug lords because such an identification makes things easier for their nefarious activities. In Pakistan there is a class struggle also going on in Swat. There is no single definition which can be applied as lawless groups tend to morph and for lack of labels they get a singular label. Like Al-Qaeda.
    There of course can never be a justification for the atrocities being committed either by Taliban or their name sake pseudo Taliban, nor for the regressive actions in the form of school destructions and total lack of women’s rights. Many groups have emerged including a struggle against the landed class, and when we try and treat many multifarious phenomenae with a singular prescription there cannot be any success.

    There also cannot be Pakistan specific solutions only because the wind of people blows from both sides and you cannot have coolants being sprayed in Pakistan while the fire is being stoked in Afghanistan. We believe that a deep and long term solution is required outside our borders:
    1. The US must find a way to disentangle from Iraq during the next year.

    2. Afghanistan requires a Jirga to bring all comabatants together and a gradual US, NATO/ISAF withdrawal under a multiparty agreement guaranteed by other sovereign players who are direct neighbors (Pakistan, Iran, China), Russia and the United States. A rebuilding plan with adequate funds should be a sweetener and would be much less expensive that the current US policy.

    3. The IPI pipeline which is important for the region to get energy from Iran to India and Pakistan has been under US pressure not to be built in an effort to keep Iran isolated. This has to be relaxed.

    4. US interference in Iranian Balochistan (Sistan province) which has been acknowledged by President Bush in his Presidential find report to Congress in 2008, has to cease because while it destabilizes Tehran by funding the Sunni Baloch to rise against Shia Tehran, it also filters into Pakistan. This has got to stop but the Pakistan government and its people must look at the fairness of our relationship with our Baloch brothers and redress the grievances of the last fifty years.

    Within Pakistan the matter is very complicated. There are more than 30 groups/leaders with different loyalties, besides the issues of lack of education, infra-structure and the lot. The stick has not worked in isolation anywhere in the world, therefore more carrot and less stick has to be used with the input of elected people of the area. The fear of the secular people among us, of Talibanisation in Pakistan is leading to a knee jerk reaction which will not help (for example the MQM’s propagation of the same idea in Karachi and resulting Pathan/Mohajir strife). However a balanced approach without external pressures has a chance of succeeding because human misery requires a common cure and the left, right or center do not matter. If policies are regressive or if secular ideas deny local sensitivities and misgivings both shall fail. A gradual change with education ensured and peace in the air has the greatest chance of success.
    Raveem Zafar Choudhry
    Pakistan Lahore

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