As the country waits for President Obama to make a decision on a new strategy for Afghanistan, the world’s eyes need to be watching the equally important developments in Pakistan.
The Pakistani military says that their forces are advancing ahead of schedule, and that they believe they will have control over South Waziristan in December.
They have captured Sararogha, described in the press as the Taliban’s “operational nerve centre,” and are now fighting to control Makheen, another critical Taliban base. Their success underscores how the Taliban have overplayed their hands, and a recent opinion poll in Pakistan found that 51% of Pakistanis support the offensive, with 13% opposing it and 36% undecided. Like in Iraq and Afghanistan, the forces of radical Islam become widely despised once their rule is experienced and their brutality against fellow Muslims is apparent.
The Taliban forces are currently following Hakimullah Mehsud, who grew up in Kotkai in South Waziristan, which has fallen from Taliban control, and who has deep tribal ties to the area.
These ties were used to recruit militants, and members of the Mehsud tribe say that they don’t hate the Taliban per se, but hate the destruction they have caused. For the locals, the strict Taliban rule reduced crime and brought a form of stability, but also have brought warfare, oppression, and denied opportunities for infrastructure to be built and the community to progress.
Based on this criterion for why the locals supported or were indifferent to the Taliban, it is clear that the Pakistani military must first bring about security and order, and then put together a local government body that does not alienate the tribal leaders and begin development of the reclaimed areas.
The U.S. needs to help the Pakistanis use this narrow window of time to demonstrate the benefits of rejecting Taliban rule.