Pakistan Hesitates, Again
New York Times Editorial, January 23, 2010
For years, Pakistan’s leaders denied that extremists — in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan — posed a mortal threat to their country. After the Pakistani Taliban got within 60 miles of Islamabad last April they decided that they had no choice but to fight back. They were right. Unfortunately, their understanding of self-interest seems to stop at a border that the Taliban certainly does not respect.
During his visit to Pakistan this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed Pakistan’s military leaders to open a new front against Afghan militants using Pakistani territory to stage attacks into Afghanistan — and was promptly rebuffed.
Displaying an alarming denial about the nature and urgency of the threat, an Army spokesman said there would be no offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan — where the Afghan Taliban are based — for at least six months and perhaps as long as 12 months. Given the speed and virulence with which the extremists have spread their hatred and violence in the past year, that’s too long to wait.
To its credit, Pakistan’s Army has mounted big offensives against Pakistani Taliban factions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and paid a steep price: losing 2,000 soldiers in battle. It may need some time to solidify these gains and prepare a new assault. But that is almost certainly not the real reason behind the delay.
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