On TV screens across Pakistan empty heads discuss Taliban this, Taliban that, ranging from calling them soft cuddly creatures who need to be protected from the evil American’s to pretty bad stuff. Somehow, though, the popular opinion seems to place them somewhere in the “bad, but misguided” bracket, or as Fox News would say, “our boys”.
While there is a lot of reporting about the people the Taliban blow up, and the even more people the US and Pakistan Army have blown up in their 8 year old on and off again fight against the Taliban, there hasn’t been much real reporting about the actual Taliban.
A NYTimes reporter was “captured by the Taliban held for almost 8 months in captivity:”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/world/asia/18hostage.html?pagewanted=all
bq. I had written about the ties between Pakistan’s intelligence services and the Taliban while covering the region for The New York Times. I knew Pakistan turned a blind eye to many of their activities. But I was astonished by what I encountered firsthand: a Taliban mini-state that flourished openly and with impunity.
Everyone knows this in Pakistan, but here’s the key part:
bq. *I saw the Haqqanis as a criminal gang masquerading as a pious religious movement. They described themselves as the true followers of Islam but displayed an astounding capacity for dishonesty and greed.*
The “press does keep pointing this out every so often”:http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/03-The-great-denial-ss-01:
bq. Though it is true the terrorists are not overwhelmingly popular with the masses, it is also true that most Pakistanis have yet to perceive the extremists as the kind of enemy that they really are.
What happens when a government abandons it’s own country without a fight?
bq. …All along the main roads in North and South Waziristan, Pakistani government outposts had been abandoned, replaced by Taliban checkpoints where young militants detained anyone lacking a Kalashnikov rifle and the right Taliban password. We heard explosions echo across North Waziristan as my guards and other Taliban fighters learned how to make roadside bombs that killed American and NATO troops.
The good news is that after a couple of decades, the “Pakistan Army is finally taking on the appriximately 10,000 hardcore religious extremists and militants in Waziristan”:http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/07-curfew-imposed-in-south-waziristan-ahead-of-operation-ha-01.
Considering that the Pakistan Army is close to a million men, and both the US and Pakistan Air forces are supporting them, that gives them at least 100 to 1 manpower odds, and probably a million to 1 firepower odds.
So why is it that the whole country seems pretty damn uncertain – maybe we’re still “treating the symptoms, not the real disease”:http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/18-irfan-husain-treating-symptoms-not-the-disease-am-05 of the open spread of militantancy all around the country, not just Waziristan.