Has Pakistan gotten serious about terrorism?
posted at 9:55 am on June 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
Yesterday I noted the sudden shift in approach to the Taliban near Peshawar by the Gilani government in Pakistan, with fresh military action to push radical Islamists away from the city. Today, Pakistan has extended its offensive to retake outposts surrendered for months and to secure lines of communication to Afghanistan in support of NATO. Islamabad apparently wants to show the stick and not the carrot, at least for now:
Paramilitary troops returned Sunday to posts they had been forced to abandon and Pakistani forces widened their offensive against militants operating in a volatile tribal area along the Afghan border, an official said.
The government launched the operation Saturday because the militants in the Khyber region presented an “immediate problem,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said. ….
Troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, quickly cleared militants out of the Bara region, said Muhammad Siddiq Khan, a local official.
A tribal paramilitary force that had been forced to abandon its posts in the region several months ago returned to the checkpoints Sunday, he said. The Frontier Corps met no resistance as it moved into other areas outside Bara, destroying militant bases along the way, he said.
The forces also destroyed a radio station used by the militants to broadcast propaganda and uncovered a torture chamber, said Rehman Malik, head of the Interior Ministry.
At first, the operation appeared aimed at a splinter group in the Taliban, but the main partner in their negotiations believes otherwise. Baitullah Mehsud abruptly suspended talks with Islamabad in the wake of the military operation, ending for the moment the Gilani government’s new strategy of engagement with native radicals. Mehsud threatened to wreak havoc in major cities if the government did not retreat from its new positions and end all offensives against Taliban elements.
Meanwhile, NATO and Afghanistan are jubilant over the new efforts. NATO said with typical understatement that NATO benefited from anything that ties up the Taliban in Pakistan. The Afghan Defense Minister “endorse[d]” the operation, blaming recent Taliban operations in the south on Islamabad’s lack of effort against them at home.
Hopefully, Gilani learned his lesson quickly on appeasement, having allowed Peshawar to teeter on the brink of Taliban takeover before acting. For today, Gilani appears ready to revert back to at least the Pervez Musharraf position.
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