The FATA area of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan is mostly lawless and ungoverned. What’s more, Filkins argues, is that the Taliban operating there has continually been propped up by the Pakistani government:
“The origins of the present predicament date to 1994, when Pakistan, unnerved by the bloody civil war that had engulfed Afghanistan following the Soviet Union’s departure five years earlier, turned to a group of fierce but moralistic Afghan tribesman who had won a string of victories.”
Why? In part because of the politics of not just Pakistan, but the region:
“The single most persuasive explanation for Pakistan’s continued involvement with the Taliban is the country’s obsession with India. Pakistan and India have fought three major wars since they broke with the British Empire in 1947, and the rivalry lives on. India has allied itself closely with the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai.”
We’ve also been sending billions in aid to a now deposed military leader, who while perhaps having had reasonable control of his country (and perhaps some interest in serving his people)…also played us quite well.
“It may be that the Pakistan Army is too inept to destroy the Taliban, but there is abundant evidence suggesting that at least some elements of the army do not want to do that. “
And no doubt, many of the Pakistani people don’t want to do that either, as Musharraf made a risky move. Leaders can’t be (or be seen to be) too far from the interests of their own people for too long.
It reminds me that the conventional wisdom on Bush foreign policy is still reasonably accurate: He really thought that inside other peoples is a little American waiting to get out.
I may agree with Bush that freedom is a universal ideal, but his pursuit of that ideal has been narrow, idealistic, and simplistic.