Pakistani Army Struggles Against Taliban
9:45 AM, Nov 11, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
While Pakistan's president thinks the war against the Taliban in the tribal areas is going well, several reports from the frontlines tell a different story. The London Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all share grim accounts of the fighting in Pakistan's tribal agency of Bajaur.
The London Times also reported that detailed plans drawn up by the Taliban were recovered in Bajaur. The Taliban established weapons and ammunition caches and set up fixed bunkers and networks of trenches. The fight on one stretch of road about eight miles long was so bad it took nearly two months of heavy fighting to clear the area.
The most disturbing aspect of the reports is the Pakistani government's plan to get the local tribes on their side to fight the Taliban. This effort is often touted as Pakistan's version of standing up an Awakening as happened in Iraq's Anbar province. I've detailed some of the problems associated with the government's efforts to win over the tribes: There is no organization between the tribal groups; the tribes that join are largely on the margins; they often refuse to work with the military; and they are vastly outnumbered by the Taliban.
But the Washington Post provides another disturbing detail in the efforts to get the tribes to fight the Taliban. Instead of working with the tribes, the government is threatening them to join the effort or face the wrath of the military.
Coercing the tribes to fight the Taliban is a deeply flawed tactic that is sure to backfire on the Pakistani state. This is no way to win an insurgency.