During the past 10 days, Pakistan's conflict with the Taliban movement has escalated toward full-scale war - and the extreme Islamist movement has mostly held the initiative. On Tuesday, government warplanes bombed targets in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan in what may be the prelude to a major army offensive there. Over the previous eight days, however, the Taliban carried out four major attacks that demonstrated both its growing power and its ambitions. One, against Pakistan's army headquarters, was staged with the help of a terrorist organization from the country's ethnic Punjabi heartland. That alliance underlines the fact that the Taliban no longer aims merely at controlling the ethnic Pashtun areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan but at gaining control over a nuclear-armed state.
All of this is bad news for the United States, which has a vital national interest in preventing an extremist takeover in Pakistan and the destabilization of the region stretching from Afghanistan to India.
Al-Qaida, though still dangerous, has suffered serious reverses in the past several years, while the Taliban has gone from struggling for survival to aiming for control over both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though it is not known to be planning attacks against the continental United States, success by the movement in toppling the government of either country would be a catastrophe for the interests of the United States and major allies such as India.
For years the United States has been trying to persuade Pakistan to fully confront the threat of the Taliban, even as its government and army dithered and wavered. Now that the army at last appears prepared to strike at the heart of the movement in Waziristan, the Obama administration is wavering - and considering a strategy that would give up the U.S. attempt to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Adopting such a strategy would condemn American soldiers to fighting and dying without the chance of winning.
- Washington Post
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