The Swat valley in Pakistan might actuallybe the center of the war on terrorism. Nestled in the Northwest Frontier Province, Swat is home to the psychotic Pakistani Taliban, affiliated extremists, and quite possibly, senior Al Qaeda and Taliban officials. In recent days, the Pakistani military has undertaken a major operation against the insurgents in Swat, although, as Bill Roggio writes, the results are still ambiguous. In an editorial mostly critical of the operation — its first two phases are “failures,” apparently — Pakistan’s Daily Times newspaper makes a striking claim:
The TV channels, at first soft on the Taliban, have finally come around to seeing the terror in Swat for what it is. Swatis themselves have been intimidated into keeping silent about [self-appointed Swat ruler and extremist Maulana] Fazlullah and criticising only the army and its “collateral damage”. But the channels can no longer conceal the fact that the Swatis are now praying for America’s drone attacks in their valley as the last resort.
I am in no position to judge the truth of that statement, but if it’s even in spitting distance of accurate, that’s rather significant.
On the one hand, Beitullah Massoud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and Fazlullah have taken actions that are reminiscent of those taken by the British and Russian invaders whom the Pashtun people have resisted thoughout history: through violence, they’ve sought to substitute their preferred system of governance for the organic, tribal structure that’s existed in the area for hundreds of years; and they’ve introduced new strictures on the way people practice religion.
If the United States did that, people would be screaming bloody murder, and they’d be right to. But on the other hand, you don’t want to assume that people want to be, you know, bombed. That would be an awful thing to predicate a strategy upon. Clearly more information is needed here.