Chasing the Taliban in Pakistan (and why it won’t work)

Eric Margolis has a piece on the prospect of the US invading the northwestern frontier region of Pakistan in order to capture or kill senior al Qaeda/Taliban. It probably will be a failure if they try it. Margolis writes of this “lawless” region:

“But there is law: the traditional Pashtun tribal code, Pashtunwali, that strictly governs behavior and personal honor. Protecting guests was sacred. I was captivated by this majestic mountain region and wrote of it extensively in my book, `War at the Top of the World.’”

He then goes on to outline some disastrous consequences if an attempt was made to go into northwestern Pakistan and to be honest, I’d say that they seem probable. If nothing else, the above quote makes it unlikely that even a Pashtun tribal group that didn’t particularly like bin Laden would turn him over to anyone.

The problem remains though that Musharraf is doing relatively little about the situation either. Michael Scheuer remarked on CBC’s The Current that Musharraf really had no incentive to upset the sizable Pashtun population in Pakistan. Given that things have been going poorly for Musharraf lately anyway, I suspect that he doesn’t want to do the Pakistani politics equivalent of hitting a hornets’ nest with a baseball bat.

It now appears that the regrouping al Qaeda is positioned in a region that the US cannot enter (without risking Pakistan’s stability – and nuclear arsenal) and that Pakistan’s leaders will not enter. If the pressure had been kept on the al Qaeda leadership, one wonders if we would have ended up here.


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