Both General Raheel Sharif (the chief of the Pakistan Army), and Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar (head of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency) met with Afghan and NATO representatives to create a joint plan of attack on the Pakistani Taliban who hide out in Afghanistan, and in return Pakistan will target the Afghan Taliban who retreat to Pakistan. According to Muhammad Khorasani, spokesman for the TTP, the attack was in retaliation for ongoing operations in North Waziristan against TTP and al-Qaeda.
The school that was attacked is run by the Pakistani military, but most of the children were the children of civilians who sent their children to the school for the higher educational standards. The choice of target is telling in itself, as the TTP has been reduced to attacking such a “soft” target. The Pakistani Taliban’s last successful operation had been the suicide bombing at the Wagash border crossing between India and Pakistan that killed 60 people on November 2, also a soft target. Attacking a school instead of a more militarily significant target sends the message that the TTP does not have the resources necessary for an offensive. It also eliminates any sympathy it would have acquired from the Pakistani military’s offensive in Waziristan.
It will not be an easy or short task, but this attack has done what no amount of cajoling or pleading by American and Afghan officials was capable of. With not just the military but also the political will of Pakistan against them and a viable joint effort with Afghanistan on the table, the Taliban will finally have their safe havens denied them. With the drawdown of NATO forces, this will be necessary for the benefit, and possibly the survival, of both governments.