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Swat Peace Agreement Is A Terrible Blunder

5:04 PM, Feb 17, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Tom Ricks believes that the peace accord between the government and the Taliban is a good idea. Here's why:

I know it looks like a setback but I suspect this might be a smart move. Give the people of Swat sharia law, and see how they like it. Meanwhile, bolster your security forces in the area so they can pick up the ball when the Taliban has sufficiently alienated the populace. Risky? Sure. But better than losing Swat altogether.

Here are a few reasons why the Swat agreement is a terrible idea:

First, the agreement to impose sharia isn't limited to just Swat, but to the entire Malakand Division, a region made up districts of Malakand, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral. This is nearly 1/3 of the entire Northwest Frontier Province being ceded to the Taliban.

Second, Mullah Fazlullah has been running Swat since the spring of 2007. Swat has been lost for almost two years. The agreement only codifies the harsh reality on the ground in Swat, where Fazlullah's jackboots murder dancers, musicians, CD shop owners, and others who disgrace his warped view of Islam. Expanding this rule elsewhere will be devastating to the people of the northwest. The people of Swat know what Fazlullah's sharia looks like. Just read the Paksitani press and you'll see they don't like it much. Nearly 300,000 Swatis, more than 15 percent of the population, fled the region since 2007.

Third, the government has negotiated two prior peace agreements with Fazlullah in 2007 and 2008. The agreement in 2008 was nearly identical in that it promised to impose sharia. The Taliban continued to attack government forces and consolidate power. Fazlullah never lived up to his end of the bargain and laid down weapons. He never intended to. Other peace deals in the tribal areas and in the northwest have clearly been violated. See North and South Waziristan, where the Taliban openly operate their emirates, with accompanying al Qaeda terror camps.

Fourth, the government is admitting it lost its writ in a large swath of the country, and is encouraging the Taliban to continue to use force to achieve its ends.

Fifth, the agreement proves that the Pakistani military is unable to defeat the Taliban, at least in the eyes of the Taliban. The Army and Frontier Corps launched three operation to clear the Taliban from Swat. Each time they made bold pronouncements. Each time they failed.