Not for the first time, either. This attack on an air force base killed eight people and wounded 15. The good news is that it only affected the perimeter of the base, but the bad news is that the Taliban apparently believes it has a winning political formula:
Friday morning a suicide attacker struck a check post on the boundary of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an Air Force base at Kamra, about 40 miles outside Islamabad, killing eight people, including two security personnel, and wounding a further 15.
“There were strict security arrangements, so he [the bomber] was intercepted at the first check post,” local police chief Fakhar Sultan told reporters.
Many of the attacks have been carried out in a deadly collaboration between Taliban extremists from the northwest and jihadists from the country’s most heavily populated province Punjab. The military is a favorite target. Earlier this month, a team of commando-style assailants shot their way into the military headquarters at Rawalpindi, while this week, gunmen ambushed a brigadier general in Islamabad, spraying his army jeep with bullets, killing him. …
Increasingly daring and sophisticated attacks by terrorists allied to al Qaida on some of Pakistan’s most sensitive and best protected installations have led to warnings that extremists could damage a nuclear facility or seize some nuclear material. The country’s nuclear sites are located mostly in the northwest of the country, close to the capital Islamabad, to keep them away from the border with arch-enemy India. However, that places them close to Pakistani Taliban extremists, who are massed in the northwest. Al Qaida has made clear its ambitions to get hold of a nuclear bomb or knowledge of nuclear technology. Several other sites associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have previously been hit.
The Taliban have not chosen to attack fortified military positions for no good reason. The military in Pakistan is a political force as well as a security force. The shift in attacks to military targets (or better put, the addition of military targets to their usual terrorism of civilians) seems to show that the Taliban thinks they can push the Pakistani military into forcing a political retreat from the war. They certainly can’t believe that they can get to the nukes on these bases. That would take a vanguard of hundreds of suicide bombers to penetrate that far, and it would give too much warning to the secured areas of the bases — and besides, any passably-competent military would sniff out that kind of troop movement too far in advance for it to be effective.
They want to attack the morale of the military with suicide bombings and hostaging. Warriors want a straight-up fight, not suicide attacks against which they cannot begin to defend themselves. By sapping the morale of the rank and file, the Taliban hope to blunt the effort to push the radicals out of the FATAs on the border of Afghanistan, which started this week, and perhaps push the military to demand another truce from the government instead of a fight.
Will that work? The government has not shied away from counterproductive truces in the past. If the military builds up enough discontent, they could conduct yet another coup, which is probably what the Taliban wants. More instability and anger allows them to recruit better, and to grab territory while Islamabad quakes.