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Musharraf Widens The War

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The Taliban/al Qaeda have had a sanctuary since 2002 in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. That may be ending according to an article in the Times of London (HT: Powerline):

Last week soldiers sealed all the roads into Miran Shah, the provincial capital, occupied the hills around it and fired the first artillery salvo in what Musharraf’s many critics have called a war on his own people.

On Friday morning the army moved into parts of Miran Shah itself after militants blew up government buildings overnight. Most of the 60,000 townspeople are feared trapped, but hundreds of families have fled their mud homes in villages nearby and headed east for the sanctuary of Bannu, a town in the neighbouring North West Frontier province.

I watched last week as some of the 80,000 troops deployed in Waziristan dug in alongside the highway outside Mirali, a small town 10 miles east of Miran Shah. Almost all the checkpoints on this stretch of narrow road were empty. Three lay in rubble because the militants had blown them up. No troops drove along the road. They shuttled to the nearby Afghan border by helicopter.

I have to agree with John Hinderaker’s reaction: “It’s always hard to evaluate these reports; we’ve heard similar things before. But if Musharraf is serious about going after the extremists hiding in Waziristan, it can only be a good thing.”

I asked Tony Snow about Musharaff’s efforts last week:

HH: Are you confident of the Musharraf regime’s stability? Or is there reason for us to start worrying about that regime going south?

TS: No, I’m not going to sit around and speculate about stability. Come on, Hugh. But I think what you can see is that the Musharraf government realizes that there is a concerted threat not merely at the Red Mosque, but there have been acts of violence throughout Pakistan. And what’s he doing? He’s doing a surge. There are a hundred thousand or so troops now on the border, and they’re going and they’re fighting hard. They’re not only taking casualties, but dishing out casualties.

HH: So you’re comfortable, you think the Bush administration believes that Pakistan is doing what it has to do?

TS: Well, look, I’m not going to try to give you a global view of…could they do more? Do they need to hit a different target? They’re doing what they need to do in terms of taking the fight to the enemy. And what we’ve said is you need some help, we’re there to help you.

If Musharraf has realized that Pakistan can’t continue on half modern and half medieval, that will be a very good thing. Tony won’t comment on the regime’s stability, but it cannot be great if it is forced to allow a large swath of its land to be governed by the Taliban.

I am surprised we don’t ever see Iran offer the proximity of a nuclear state imperiled by a radical Sunni insurgency as the rationale for its nuclear program. A Taliban Pakistan with nukes is a nightmare as great as a Mullah-led Iran with nukes. (For more on Iran’s ambitions and stability, see last week’s interview with Michael Rubin).


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