Friday, December 19, 2014

You messed up, Pakistani Taliban. Big time.

On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda misjudged the American will, and on December 16, 2014, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan did the same for the people of Pakistan.  Such a heinous attack that even the Afghanistan Taliban immediately denounced it.  Nothing could call for a more wide-spread denouncement  than attacking children, but the TTP did just that by attacking a Pakistan military ran school, killing 162, including 132 children.  The notoriously incoherent approach of the Pakistan to their jihadist populations has been hardened into a resolve that will lead to an increasingly challenging environment for not just the TTP, but all jihadist groups.  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, under immense public pressure, has announced that there will be no classification of the Taliban into separate categories of good or bad, but that they are all targets now, and has lifted the years old moratorium on executions of those convicted of terrorism. 

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.  

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