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Gates: The Taliban ‘Overreached’ in Pakistan

From a press conference Defense Secretary Bob Gates held in Kabul:

First, I think that the Taliban in Pakistan overreached with their offensive in Buner district, coming within dozens of kilometers of Islamabad. I think that it has served as a — an alarm for the Pakistani government that these violent extremists in the western part of Pakistan are a significant danger to the government of Pakistan.

And so we have seen, in the last week or two, significant Pakistani military action against these — against the Taliban in Buner district, and clear recognition that the agreement in Swat has failed. And so I personally have been very satisfied with the strong response that the Pakistani government and army have taken in response to this, and that there is very little chance of the Taliban in Pakistan achieving a level of success that would give them access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

First, if the Taliban had decided to stay in Swat and not abrogate their “peace” deal with the government that left them in charge of the area, then yeah, it’s hard to see how the Pakistani military would be trying to push them back into the tribal areas. Whether the military leaves the Taliban in the tribal areas is a different and as-yet-unsettled question, and I would submit that will be the test of whether the Taliban “overreached.” Gates is as reality-based as they come, but he’s developed a recent tendency for overstating his case.

Second — and in the complete opposite direction of the first point! — is this actually a hedged bet? Saying “there is very little chance of the Taliban in Pakistan achieving a level of success that would give them access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons” is … not saying a whole lot. So much more bad stuff can happen that’s short of the absolute disaster scenario of a nuclear Taliban.

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