Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Swat Valley Update: Ceasefire is Go

It seems Pakistan's Swat region is going to settle down. At least for the moment. The Taliban (by which I mean the local Cleric-Warlord, Sufi Muhammed) has signed off on an "indefinite ceasefire" with the government. Apparently there isn't any fighting right now, either--but there's usually only sporadic killing/bombing/terrorizing when government troops aren't there. So there's little to say on effectiveness yet.

There are legitimate concerns that this is (as Prof. Barry Posen calls it) "the Pause that Refreshes," allowing the Taliban to bring up reserve troops, regroup, plan, resupply, etc. The Taliban may be cleverly fooling a desperate Pakistani army into taking the pressure off at a critical moment. Most radical Clerics are relatively evangelical and expansionist. Why stop here, if he has been able to take over 70% of the Swat region, and gains a military advantage by the ceasefire?

If Pakistan hopes to make this ceasefire final, it must regroup itself and present a credible deterrent. It must make clear, somehow, that breaking the ceasefire (in a serious way) will make the Taliban's collective lives extremely difficult. The incentives must work out: if messing with the ceasefire and trying to expand influence is not worth the cost of having to deal with the Pakistani Army, then you have a ceasefire that is likely to hold for a while.

How to make that happen is another story.
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