Pakistan's deal with the Islamist devil is about to come apart, and so is the country. And that's bad news for the current occupant of the White House.
The Zardari government had already ceded a huge chunk of the country to control by the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Queda after failing to oust them militarily in what was supposed to be a live and let live peace treaty. Instead, the Taliban and their assorted allies consolidated their gains and their forces and took over the Buner district a mere 70 miles from Islamabad, the capitol. And much closer to Pakistan's nukes.
As this map shows,, the majority of Pakistan's nuclear facilities are located either in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP)and Waziristan near the Afghan border which Pakistan has already essentially ceded to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda or in the Punjab near Islamabad...which is right next door to the Buner district.
The Taliban and their allies began moving fighters into Buner since the Swat peace deal was signed back in February., finally seizing the whole area, with a coordinated assault with fighters moving down from Swat to the northwest. Whatever Pakistani government forces were in the area either fled or were killed.
Once they moved in, the Taliban forces occupied and looted government facilities and the offices of various international agencies operating in Buner.
Analysts said the fall of Buner to the Taliban came as a serious blow to the government's efforts to contain Islamic militancy, which poses a major threat to Pakistan's security. The people of the area had previously beaten back Taliban raids, but lack of support from the security forces broke their resistance..
The development came after Sufi Mohammed, a radical cleric who played a central role in signing the peace accord called his followers to continue their struggle for the enforcement of Islamic rule in the entire North West Frontier Province.
Addressing a large crowd in Mingora, the main town in Swat on Sunday, Mr. Mohammed declared that there was no room for democracy in Islam. "The Western democracy is infidels and should be rejected by Muslims," he said
This development did not go unnoticed back in DC:
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Taliban advances pose "an existential threat" to Pakistan and urged Pakistanis world-wide to oppose a government policy yielding to them.
Pakistanis "need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents," Mrs. Clinton said in testimony before a House committee. She pointed to "the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing [Taliban] advances, now within hours of Islamabad."
Part of the problem, of course, is that a large number of Pakistanis don't feel the need in the least to speak out...and a great many of them are just fine with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whom they see as doing Allah's work.And their number is not just limited to a bunch of Pashtun hillbillies. Without support from elements in Pakistan's military and its CIA, the notorious ISI, it's doubtful the Taliban and the other Islamist elements would be anywhere near as successful as they've been.
Pakistan has always been a basket case of a country, cobbled together from diverse elements back in 1949 without much in common except the fact that they happened to be Muslims.Virtually the only really functioning entity in the country is the army, and the rulership has alternated between the military and third world style kleptocrats like the Bhuttos ever since.
Under the last military ruler, Pervez Musharraf the US had at least a quasi-ally who kept Pakistan's nukes under control, kept the Taliban and al-Qaeda more or less contained. and kept the supply lines to Afghanistan through the port of Karachi and the Torkham Pass open for us for a reasonable fee of about $1.5 billion a year.
That situation changed last year, courtesy of the US State Department. Musharraf had been hanging on by his fingernails for quite some time, but then Condi Rice and the US State Department pressured him to allow Benazhir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif back into Pakistan to 'strengthen democracy' and gave Musharraf a shove off the ledge. In the elections that were forced on him after Benazhir Bhutto was assassinated, Musharraf was ousted and Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari took over at th ehead of Bhutto's PPP Party. And yes, if this rings a bell, it's pretty much the way the Carter Administration pressured the Shah of Iran into allowing Khomeni back into the country,with the results I'm sure we're all familiar with.
Unfortunately, once Zardari came into power, the situation began to deteriorate as the Islamist elements like the Taliban and Nawaz Sharif's party became more powerful and Zardari was caught between the klepto-left elements of his party and the Islamist forces.It's just taking longer than Khomeni did because Pakistan is by its very nature less of a unified country than Iran.
At this point, it's difficult to see how to salvage the situation. The Pakistani army is not capable of ousting the Taliban and their allies no matter how much aid they get, because there are some problems you simply can't fix by throwing money at them..like how to defeat a dedicated group of ideologically driven fighters with a group of less than motivated ones.
Again, this is not a new story - there was a long period after the Shah left when the Carter State department was counting on a military coup by the Shah's army to solve the Iran problem for us once it became apparent, and it never even came close to happening.
If the Taliban takes over or even if they're in a position to interdict the NATO supply lines into Afghanistan, our little adventure there may be over.Not to mention yet another failed state, this time with nukes and ICBMs. Not good.
If I were Obama, I'd have contingency plans for both an emergency pullout from Afghanistan as necessary and a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan's nuclear and military facilities...when and if.