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Taliban’s Rule in the Swat valley

May 7, 2009

Despite the relatively good press the Taliban received in pacifying parts of Aghanistan in the late 1990’s by imposing some degree of order (if not law), today’s Taliban seem to be bent on serving up rough justice with or without sharia, exacerbating an already awful refugee crisis.

School allegedly destroyed by the Taliban in the Swat Valley.  AP.

To deal with this mortal threat to Pakistan, Islamabad has to develop (and develop quickly) an effective counter-insurgency strategy to hold the line against the Taliban.  Yet, as Michael Crowley in the New Republic writes, Pakistan’s army is more intent on preparing and fighting a conventional war with India, spending the majority of the money the US sends to the country to develop its air capabilities.  Evidently, the Bush administration allowed this to happen, moving money from the counterterrorism mission to helping Pakistan upgrade its fighter jet fleet.

In June 2008, it emerged that Pakistan was having trouble coming up with money to pay for the upgrades to modernize its F-16 fleet. Ever kindly, the Bush administration shifted roughly $230 million from an account earmarked by Congress to pay for Pakistani counterterrorism equipment like Cobra helicopters and surveillance planes and directed it to pay for the F-16 upgrades. That payment amounted to more than two-thirds of all the U.S. counterterrorism spending on Pakistan. The Bush team also signaled that it would be looking to shift another $142 million for the same purpose the following year.

At the end of the day, Pakistan is responsible for its own destiny, but Washington should not cave in so quickly to maintain our ‘special’ (if transactional) relationship with Islamabad.

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