Foreign Policy Blogs

Talibanistan: Burning the Village to Save the Nation

It is impossible to exaggerate the recklessness and danger brought about by Pakistan’s decision to acquiesce the Swat Valley to Taliban authorities.  Superficially, the transfer of power is bad for Pakistan as a nation, South Asia as a region, and the worldwide effort against Islamic fundamentalism.  In the grand scheme, however, the new region does offer some serious opportunities for America and her allies.  Here are some immediate implications:

 Further Erosion of the Already Porous Border:  It is unlikely, if not incomprehensible, that Taliban authorities will oversee a strict border policy between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This has dire consequences for NATO and American forces, many of whom are ineligible to violate Pakistani sovereignty.   This not only provides a safe haven for suspected terrorists, but also allows the infiltration of Afghanistan from extremists in the Pakistan’s North West provinces. 

 International Status:  What will be the international classification of this new region?  Is it under Pakistani control? Who will the United Nations address to rectify grievances?  For such a troubled region, it further complicates the issue of sovereignty and legitimacy.  The area will no doubt contain various high level al-Qaeda targets, yet proper diplomatic and government channels are essentially non-existent. 

Increased Legitimacy:  Once regarded as an insurgent, terrorist organization, the Taliban has been granted an increased level of legitimacy by the Pakistani authorities.  If recognized as a proper institutionalized government, military operations become muddied and raise legal complications.

 The Bright Side: There is, however, a silver lining in all of this.  If I were to view the situation optimistically, I would argue this overarching theory.  Pakistan realized that they were engaged in an unwinnable struggle.  The only hope of victory was a sweeping American presence, which they understood would be intolerable both politically and socially.  In granting the Taliban control over the region, they are removing themselves from the conflict, while at the same time opening the door for unlimited American military operations.  They can protest, burn effigies, and march as much as they want.  The bottom line is that the US military is no longer violating Pakistani sovereignty, it is violating Taliban sovereignty.  In that conflict, even the most hard-headed anti-Americanist knows the more dangerous of the two. 

 Pakistan has finally realized they need to amputate the leg to save the body.  Now it is up to the surgeon.   



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;


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