Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swat: Not Special Weapons And Tactics

I listened to reports by the Associated Press this morning concerning the takeover of Swat by Taliban militant fighters. At first I was concerned that somehow, in a devious conspiracy theory this division of the umbrella organization Al-Qaeda had control over the elite tactical units in the American police system called by the same name. It soon came to my attention the Pakistani government would allow the Taliban's version of Sharia law in the Malakand region of Swat, an administrative district in the North-West Frontier Province. In return, Malulana Fazlullah's followers, members of TNSM militant Islamist faction, agreed to observe a ceasefire negotiated by Sufi Muhammad, Malulana's father in law. Gerald from Internet Anthropologist addresses this situation in his article New State: Taliban Swat. I further posted a comment on Gerald's site regarding this very serious international issue. Gerald notes that at Fazlullah's insistence he
"has successfully organized a campaign opposing polio vaccinations and has forced the closure girls' schools throughout the region."
It is important to remember that in counterinsurgency strategy,
"the side that prevails in an insurgency does so in part by creating an air of inevitability among the populace about its ultimate victory." (James Holmes)
By "winning hearts and minds" depends on a genuine presence among the people. No where is this more evident than the failures of Vietnam and Korea, where insurgency and asymmetric warfare were consuming to the point of attrition. The dominance of the Taliban in the strategic Swat valley is not only a major setback for Obama's administration, as
"it hopes to mount a united front against militants,"
but a setback in international law, as it conflicts with state sovereignty over a defined territory. U.S. Special Envoy Richard C. Holbrooke said that he
"Is very concerned about Pakistan and stability."
As he should be. On Tuesday, President Obama announced plans to boost U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by 50%, marking a change in the theater of the "War on Terror." Lawmakers and strategists alike conclude that Afghanistan will be the dominating factor in U.S. military affairs for the term of the Obama Administration. It seems that Obama's call for bipartisanism, cohabitation, united fronts, and peace, was challenged with the same issues that President Bush had to deal just a different front.

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