Pervez Musharraf has left a fluid situation in the wake of his departure from the political scene in Pakistan. Even before he resigned, elements of the ruling government coalition were negotiating with the Islamic radicals that control large sections of the North West Frontier Province. Although the Pakistani army is currently fighting terrorist forces in the tribal areas, there is no reason to believe that it will have any long term success.
With that in mind — and presumably also those pesky nuclear weapons — the United States is considering its options. According to the Arab Times:
US Debates Independent Operations in Pakistan
Senior Pentagon officials are debating whether the US military should undertake independent operations against Islamic militants operating in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. The newspaper said these internal debates followed US intelligence warnings that al-Qaeda and other militant groups are consolidating their hold on northwestern Pakistan.
The report came as Pakistani soldiers killed up to 37 militants in a massive offensive in northwest Pakistan, and at least six people were killed in separate bomb attacks, according to Pakistani military and police officials.
Troops are battling Taleban militants in the Swat valley in North West Frontier Province where the violence has left dozens of dead and wounded. But there is a growing belief within the US government that the new leadership in Islamabad has proved to be ineffectual in the fight against the militants.
“Radical terrorist groups in the border regions have undermined and fought against the central government of Pakistan and carved out sanctuaries and training bases,” an unnamed senior US officer in Afghanistan is quoted by The Times as saying. “They have come back, and they are presenting a significant challenge.”
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A team of as many as 30 trainers was supposed be sent to Pakistan this summer to operate out of a base near the northwestern city of Peshawar. But Pentagon officials said the training has been blocked by the Pakistani government for months, in part because of anger over the June killing of 11 Frontier Corps members in a US airstrike near the Afghan border.
The two main parties in the ruling coalition — who have been preoccupied with internal squabbling since forcing Pervez Musharraf to resign as president — dabbled in peace talks with the militants soon after taking power five months ago.
The nature of despotic rule is that arrangements made with the dictator are not automatically passed on to his successor. There’s no reason the US has to continue its hands-off policy towards the tribal areas now that Gen. Musharraf is out of the picture. The more de facto autonomy that emerges in the NWFP, the more likely it is there will be direct American intervention.
And don’t forget: early in the primary season, the future President Obama promised that he would invade Pakistan.
Hat tip: VH.