Friday, October 23, 2009
As Pakistan targets militants, militants respond with terror tactics
With our recent class discussion on terrorism and the Fall Conference’s lumping together of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a virtually unified concern, it’s coincidental that there has been a lot of terrorist activity in Pakistan lately. The recent surge in violence in Pakistan mirrors what is occurring and has occurred across its border in Afghanistan. Ever since Pakistan has begun actively targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in South Waziristan, terrorist attacks have been conducted against Pakistani military and civilian targets in urban and rural areas. The Pakistani people are worrying that the relative inattention the militants had shown them has ended, that “the Pakistani state is under siege.”
It seems Islamist militants are utilizing new tactics, or have been engaged in new types of targets as of late. In Islamabad on Thursday October 22nd, two assailants on a motorbike fired automatic weapons at a military jeep, killing a brigadier and his driver. On Friday October 23rd, Taliban rockets and suicide bombs targeted a strategic airbase, a restaurant, and a civilian bus carrying wedding guests, killing at least 27 and wounding many others. In the last three weeks, more than 200 people have been killed in response to the Army’s assault against the Taliban in South Waziristan. Other targets include markets, universities, and UN offices. Could this “new strategy of varied and unpredictable attacks” ultimately lead to a U.S. foray into this favored country of terror organizations?
Of course, entry into Pakistan would be challenging for several reasons and is unlikely to occur. Pakistan is a nuclear power with greater size and government strength than Afghanistan and could not be so easily told that they will accept an American military presence within its borders. Additionally, the U.S. under the Obama Administration seems hesitant to send anything but the consensus bare minimum troops to an international conflict. As Obama has yet to decide his position on Afghanistan, he certainly won't be making any critical decisions regarding Pakistan any time soon.
Despite the volume of recent attacks, this certainly is not the extent of Pakistan’s problems with terror organizations. Militant Taliban groups in the west have formed alliances with militant Punjabi groups fighting for Kashmir in the east, and Pakistan has known of this for some time. It seems to be a classic case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, as terror groups coalesce against governments set on bringing down their organizations. But eastern provinces have been reluctant to admit a jihadi presence in Punjabi areas for fear of greater Pakistani
or even U.S. military involvement in the region.. However, according to the recently passed Kerry-Lugar bill in which the U.S. provides Pakistan with $7.5 billion in civilian aid over the next 5 years, Pakistan is required to make progress in battling Punjab-based terror organizations. Accepting this aid may include the implicit understanding the U.S. reserves the right to intervene as it sees fit.
If more frequent and damaging attacks occur and militant alliances continue to be formed, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that the Pakistani military could ask for U.S. and international assistance, if they were provided assurances that our entry would be for this limited purpose. Because the old principle applies again: from Pakistan’s view, the enemy (the U.S.) of its enemy (new extremists) would be its friend.