‘Decisive’ Moves in Swat?
With Pakistani public opinion behind the military push against the Taliban, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Army chief of staff, declared that the tide has “decisively turned” in the government’s favor in the Swat Valley. This is as premature a claim of victory as when Lt. Gen. John Sattler claimed in 2004 that the Marine invasion of Fallujah had “broken the back of the insurgency” in Iraq. The Pakistani military, police and civilian government now have to hold the areas they clear, something they have little experience with doing, to ensure the Taliban doesn’t return to power or pop back up in proximate areas that have a smaller military footprint. Sure enough, hours after Kiyani’s declaration, a bomb killed 30 people in nearby Upper Dir. And the Army is ordering civilians out of homes located within five kilometers of Mingora — which the government said it had taken back from the Taliban a week ago — in anticipation of impending fighting. Are we going to get an explanation from the Army that all this indicates the insurgency is in its last throes?