So what holds back the rest of the Pakistan Army from pushing out the Taliban from their positions in the Swat valley? The initial response from military leaders has been consistent. The politicians in Islamabad, they say at army headquarters in Rawalpindi, believe they can negotiate with Taliban leaders in such a manner as to preserve the political support of Pushtun tribal elements overall.
By George H. Wittman
For its part, the Pakistan Army command has for many years worked closely with Pushtun militants: this was true against India and the Soviets in Afghanistan. These same groups now make up today’s Taliban. Parallel to this sense of loyalty to old comrades-in-arms is the thinking that civilian law enforcement, in concert with local paramilitary units, does nothing to follow-up the army’s initial victories. Hard won battles are perceived as undercut by civilian ineptitude.
In other words the army blames a lack of local follow-up and yet at the same time is itself hesitant to initiate a crushing blow on its old buddies who are now in the Taliban leadership. Many more explanations are available from General Staff in Rawalpindi, but the bottom line is always the same: “Our real enemy is India and always will be!”
To add to the arguments justifying army hesitancy for a large-scale attack on the Taliban, there is a continuing belief that the U.S. truly wishes to diminish the power of Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such views are rarely uttered to Western official representatives, but the depth of their feeling is often transmitted privately.
One factor acting as an obstacle of unstated but perhaps even greater importance is that American-trained General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, Chief of Army Staff, apparently has no immediate interest in heading a military action to take over once again from Pakistan’s ineffectual civilian leadership. Kiyani is quite satisfied with being able to shift potential blame for Islamic militancy and Taliban encroachment onto the civilian government.
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