Obama, the anti-war president, is sending 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. If that news unsettles you, that you may want to read the most recent piece from AntiFascist
(whose excellent I work I really must plug more often). More fighting in Pakistan will place greater strain on Pakistan -- and I'm not sure how much more strain they can take.
Not only are the Taliban regaining their muscles in Afghanistan, they also are also starting to take over Pakistan. There, they are known as the TTP -- the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, led by the mysterious Baitullah Mahsud (who may or may not be dead, depending on which report you believe). The CIA says that the TTP was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
President Zardari told CBS News' "60 Minutes" Sunday, "We are aware of the fact (the Taliban are) trying to take over the state of Pakistan. So, we're fighting for the survival of Pakistan." However, the government has responded by capitulating to the TTP's demands in NWFP's Malakand district that includes the Swat Valley.
A target of the CIA's February 14 missile strike, Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah, Pakistani veterans of America's anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, command a formidable army.
With links to elements within Pakistan's organized crime-tainted Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and Army officers (serving and retired) who came to prominence during the reign of dictator General Zia ul-Haq, the TTP have been marching eastward from their redoubts in North and South Waziristan, the North-West Frontier Province and now threaten chaos within Pakistan's major population centers.
In the past year alone, TTP militants have launched more than 600 terrorist attacks, killing 2,000 people.
Since September, the situation has grown markedly worse. TTP and al-Qaeda fighters along with their Afghan Talib cousins, have virtually cut NATO's supply lines into Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and now threaten Peshawar, the NWFP's capital, a sprawling city of three million people.
According to the latest reports in the Pakistani press, the TTP now control some eighty percent of the territory of the Swat Valley where Mehsud's local commander, Maulana Fazlullah has instituted a reign of terror under the banner of "Sharia Law."
Since the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) affair in 2007, the TTP has challenged the state's writ and has spread sectarian medievalism across Pakistan, launching terrorist strikes in major cities, bombing girls' schools, burning down video shops, executing "immoral" women and beheading secular and leftist opponents. Along with the carnage, organized crime and the drug traffic has markedly increased.
Oh -- and do you recall A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuke expert who was caught distributing bombs as though they were breath mints? Remember the slap-on-the-hand treatment he received?
The release of nuclear proliferator Dr. A. Q. Khan from house arrest earlier this month, lifting restrictions imposed in 2004 when the scandal surrounding Pakistan's illicit black market in nuclear technology first broke, is another sign that Zardari is in deep trouble at home. Khan's release was a political decision intended to shore-up support on the president's right flank
Why am I suddenly flashing on that creepy remark Joe Biden made...the one about Obama being "tested" by some major event within six months?
While the Khan "chapter" may be "closed," the crisis may be far worse than imagined. Daily Times reported February 4 that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei "has said Pakistan's nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists due to the prevailing instability in the South Asian country." Instability, I might add, that the United States and their NATO partners seem hell-bent on spreading far and wide.
Depression or no Depression, for A.Q. Khan, business is booming. (Incidentally, if you want to see a really unnerving blog about Khan, go here