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Taliban Pledges Support for Pakistan If War Breaks out with India

2:41 PM, Dec 23, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is accused of being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, said he'd back the government if war breaks out with India. Baitullah promised the Taliban would to send "thousands of our well-armed militants" and hundreds of suicide bombers to Pakistan's eastern border with India "to fight alongside the army if any war is imposed on Pakistan." He also said the suicide bombers are being equipped with their suicide vests.

Baitullah's call to support the military validates the long-standing Pakistani strategy of establishing strategic depth--supporting the Taliban and jihadi groups--to oppose India. Despite Pakistan siding with the United States after the 9/11 attack, many in the military and intelligence service continued to back this policy covertly. Little has been done to crack down on the multitude of jihadi groups inside Pakistan. And powerful elements within the Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped revive the Afghan Taliban after it was ousted from power in early 2002.

A war with India would be welcome for the Taliban. Pakistani Army operations, as ineffective as they have been in the Northwest Frontier Province, would end, allowing the Taliban to finally consolidate its Islamic Emirate in the region and free up forces to fight in Afghanistan. This would allow the Taliban to cut off NATO's supply line to Afghanistan, making the upcoming U.S. "surge" difficult to support.