Pakistan Going Soft on Taliban Again?

by Michael Crowley | August 28, 2009

Bill Roggio flags an important--and disturbing--Time story:

Despite strenuous entreaties by top U.S. officials, Pakistan has abandoned plans to mount a military offensive against the terrorist group responsible for a two-year campaign of suicide bombings across the country. Although the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been in disarray since an Aug. 5 missile strike from a CIA-operated drone killed its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani military has concluded that a ground attack on its strongholds in South Waziristan would be too difficult....

A top Pakistani general, Nadeem Ahmed, recently said preparation for such an operation could take up to two months. Now there will be no ground assault at all, according to a senior Pakistani politician known to have strong military ties. Instead, the politician tells TIME, the military will try to buy off some TTP factions through peace deals....

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, who conducted the Obama Administration's review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, says the military may simply want "to get the TTP back to where it was two years ago — a malleable force that doesn't attack the Pakistani state, and particularly not the army." A somewhat tame TTP is a useful bogeyman "to keep civilians appreciative of the need for the army to be getting resources and priority attention," Riedel adds.

The extensive discussion underway about our strategy in Afganistan invariably winds up giving short shrift to the even harder--and more important--question of how the hell to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan from falling apart. And I'm not sure we're much closer to the answer than we were six months ago.

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