Can we take advantage of our adversary’s arrogance? It would require containing our own, which is never easy
Map of Northwest Pakistan, from the BBC
Seven weeks ago Taliban allies in the Swat valley over-reached. After accepting a deal with the Pakistani government that consolidated their religious and civil authority, they attempted to extend that authority to a neighboring district.
In early May the newspaper DAWN explained, “the Swat militants apparently shot themselves in the foot by going back on their commitment on the peace deal even after their main demand for the Sharia regulation was met, virtually rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and its superior courts, and continuing barbaric killings and other activities to enforce their own brand of Sharia that only caused revulsion at home and abroad.”
Since then the Pakistani military has largely been successful in reasserting central government authority in a region where the government had long seemed irrelevant.
Monday the Pakistani military rolled into Bannu, a district on the eastern edge of North and South Waziristan. This morning the Pakistani military began anti-Taliban operations. From Bannu the supposed hideouts of Osama bin-Laden and others along the Afpak border are comparatively close-at-hand. Several reports suggest that is where the fight will go next. Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal provides a great tactical brief.
Last Friday a suicide bomber killed 35 in a Shiite mosque in Haya Gai in Pakistan’s Dir district. That afternoon local people retaliated against local Taliban leadership. According to the BBC, “Officials say they have been joined in their fight by residents from two villages and a town. There are now about 2,000 of them fighting 200 surrounded Taliban militants.” The Pakistani military is sending support. (More from the New York Times.)
Yesterday a truck bomb decimated the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the principal city of Northwest Pakistan with a population of 3 million. It is too soon to be sure of how this will influence public and official attitudes in Pakistan. But given recent examples, we might expect further stiffening of the spine.
A stiff spine will not be sufficient. An overly stiff response might even be counter productive. The challenge is significant. The battle for Buner continues. Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, is convulsed in violence of its own. The hundreds-of-thousands of internally displaced will create serious new problems The economic, social, and political character of Pakistan is innately fractious.
At the end of April, Gen. Petraeus was, we are told, predicting the Pakistani state could be overthrown in two weeks. Since then Taliban arrogance has motivated unprecedented political and military action. Many long-time observers (and here) suggest that what has transpired is a real turning point.
For many years the terrorists have tried — and often succeeded – to tempt us into over-reaction. They have used our own strengths against us. Osama bin-Laden has behaved as a master of Ju-no-kata. He has tried to coach others in the subtle form of converting us into our own worst enemy. Not every student was attentive and their master is increasingly isolated.
In recent weeks the al Qaeda-Taliban alliance in Pakistan has overestimated its own strength and stumbled badly. We can hope for more stumbles and help Pakistan finish the job.
But we might also consider the counsel of Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, “We should remember that our bodies should not be stiff, but free, quick and strong. We should be able to move properly in response to our opponent’s unexpected attacks. We should also not forget to make full use of every opportunity during our practice to improve our wisdom and virtue.”
Gains in Pakistan Fuel Pentagon Optimism for Pursuing Al-Qaeda (Washington Post)
Army, people united against Taliban: Zardari (Daily Times)