As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Most Dangerous Trouble Spot In The World Update

The Pakistani government should actually be commended for this recent move against their indigenous Taliban, now threatening to become a two-front war:

A militant commander in northwest Pakistan tore up a peace deal with the Pakistani government Tuesday, dealing a major blow to the government's campaign against Islamist insurgents in the extremist-controlled Waziristan region.

The commander, Gul Bahadur, who heads the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan, ended his pact with Islamabad and threatened more attacks on the army after an assault on a military convoy in his area Sunday claimed the lives of at least 16 soldiers.

Pakistan's military had sought to confine the battle in Waziristan to warlord Baitullah Mehsud, a rival of Bahadur and an ally of al Qaida who's led the militant takeovers of several other regions in northwest Pakistan, but now it finds itself facing both Baitullah Mehsud and Bahadur, as well as a third Taliban commander in the region bordering Afghanistan. Maulvi Nazir, an ally of Bahadur, also announced the end of a peace agreement with Pakistan in recent days.

The government is moving against this home-grown Taliban, not to be confused with the Afghan Taliban (which the military apparently supports), because it's good politics. Pakistan, contrary to popular belief, believes in civil society. The biggest demonstration in recent years there was a protest of the sacking of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The images of Taliban members stoning a young girl inspired rage throughout the country and the scales feel from the eyes of those who formerly looked the other way at extremism.

A new poll by has found that the Pakistani public has turned against the Taliban in a big way, with 81% now seeing the Taliban in the Northwest of Pakistan as a critical threat to the country. This is up from 34% in September, 2007. And some two-thirds of Pakistanis view all religious militant groups in the country as a whole as a critical threat to it. This proportion is up from 38% in September of 2007, and it is a significant shift, since a lot of Pakistanis had view the religious militants as freedom fighters for the cause of Kashmir or the liberation of Afghanistan from Western occupation.

The bad news for President Obama is that the Pakistani public's souring on the Taliban has not resulted in higher favorability ratings for the United States. A majority does not trust Obama to do the right thing. Overwhelming majorities believe the US wants to divide and weaken the Muslim world, and 82% reject Obama's predator drone strikes on Pakistani soil. Some 79% want the war in Afghanistan ended now.

We can cheer a waning of religious nationalism in Pakistan, but must be mindful of the continuance of anti-imperialism. And the US engaging in surveillance flights over Pakistan and dropping Predator drone strikes won't help out self-image. We need to be happy about Pakistan's contribution to fighting extremist Islam, but we also need to get out of their way.

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