Taliban Now Within 70 Miles of Pakistan's Capital

Taliban Now Within 70 Miles of Pakistan's Capital


As my colleague George Thomas would say, "Yikes." From the Wall Street Journal:

Pakistan sent a small paramilitary force to protect government buildings in a district seized by the Taliban just 110 kilometers from the capital -- a modest effort likely to increase doubts about Islamabad's ability to rein in the militants.

The few hundred troops from the Frontier Corps -- an often under-equipped and poorly paid force designed to police the country's frontier with Afghanistan -- were too few to seriously challenge the Taliban fighters now firmly in control of the Buner district. At least one of the four platoons dispatched to Buner on Thursday was met with gunfire as it moved into the district, and a police officer escorting the troops was killed, officials said.

A Taliban militant smiles as he holds his weapon outside the mosque where tribal elders and the Taliban met in Daggar on April 23, 2009.

The officials declined to say if they knew the identity of the assailants. But suspicion quickly fell on the Taliban, and the shooting cast a harsh spotlight on the government's apparent indecision over how to stop the militants, who have largely ignored a peace deal in the Swat Valley, which neighbors Buner, since signing it with the government in mid-February.

The Taliban's push into Buner represents the deepest advance into Pakistan to date by the militants. Top civilian and military officials said Thursday they were discussing how to respond.

The Obama administration is anything but pleased with the Pakistani response so far, and rightfully not. So where is this all heading? Although the situation in Pakistan is obviously different in many ways from the one in Iran circa 1979, they are similar in that there is a strong vibe of impending doom. And a feeling that the radicals are an unstoppable freight train poised to supplant a weak, unpopular government. The most striking and troubling difference? Pakistan has an arsenal of nuclear weapons that the Taliban and its ilk would love to get their hands on. The big question is, will the U.S. and India--Pakistan's next door neighbor and longtime rival--stand by and watch it happen? I highly doubt it, especially in India's case.

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