Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Taliban Confirms Army Successes

In a very rare and politically costly concession of fact, the Taliban recently asked the Pakistani government very nicely for a return to a recent past that now seems so rosy and delightful in retrospect. The Taliban have formally sought a return to the Sharia-for-disarmament peace deal. Pakistan has rejected the deal, offering an ultimatum--leave or be arrested. Submit to arrest or be killed.

The government has also made it clear that any Sharia-style law in any province of Pakistan will necessarily submit to the Pakistani Constitution, which was violated in almost all possible ways in the few weeks that the Taliban had state-approved authority in Swat.

The Taliban surely knew that asking formally for peace would be a long-shot, at best. And if they indeed knew this to be the case, then facing the public embarrassment of begging for peace indicates incredible desperation--and desperation indicates hurting on their side. The Taliban have effectively signaled to Pakistan and to the world that the government's military actions are working, and extraordinarily well.

Such an admission is going to boost the morale of the Pakistani people, and boost their confidence in the decision by their leaders to pursue a decisive military option. It's the first really tangible sign of military results in a very, very long time by the Pakistani Army, and this admission may be a mistake that dooms the Taliban well into the future.

I've also heard from a friend that the Pakistani Ambassador to the US went on televised news and claimed that the Pakistani government only enacted the Swat peace deal to show the population that the Taliban would break it, which they they (correctly) guessed would lead to public support for decisive military action. This statement could indeed be a complete lie, though it seems intuitive enough to not be totally outrageous; indeed, it's almost certain that at least someone in the Pakistani government was convinced by his colleagues to support the deal on the prediction that it would fail miserably. So either it was dumb luck or incredibly clever planning, or a bit of both, but it's paying handsomely now.

I suppose, given Pakistani sensitivities, that it would be counter-productive to openly root for the Army, but I will say that things are looking pretty good for them right now.
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