Sunday, September 07, 2008

Paying Pakistan

There is a large report by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times Magazine, Right at the Edge, that is important in several respects.

Firstly, it says that the US is paying Pakistan to fight the Taliban, and while they want the money, they don't want the fight. In this process, only the Pakistan military counts, the civilian government is left out in the cold.

Next, in Pakistan the old way of dealing with the tribal peoples of the Hindu Kush (Pushtun) was devised by the British, they would pay tribal leaders (maliks), when the tribes would raid outside their areas anyway, there would often be massive retaliation, including confiscation of the flocks and crop destruction. The civilian government of Pakistan is proposing something similar for now, though perhaps without the massive retaliation.

This strategy already seems dead in the water. Just as sometimes would happen back in British times, the different tribes are united behind religious leaders (Taliban is what they're called now). The tribal leaders play ball, or are executed summarily.

Washington's latest upping of the ante, the raid over the border, seems to have pleased no one, only Zardari has muted his criticism so he could grab the presidency. But now, he will be in charge of the army, and as Filkins points out, it is the army that supports the Taliban so they can keep getting US money to fight them. To show how unpleased they are, a bureaucratic snafu seems to have blocked fuel shipments to Kabul, a shot across the USS Afghanistan's bow if there ever was one.

While there are parts of the report that can be seen as the usual labeling and lumping (militants, extremists, Taliban, etc.) plus the normal pro-US tinted glasses, it does point out the ongoing contradictions of the 'War on Terror'. It's some of the best reporting on Pakistan done by an American reporter in a US publication.

What we don't know, but would like to, is, "Why now?".


Anonymous Rabia said...

I'm a little surprised by how, well, surprised everyone is by the claim that Pakistan's army supports the Taliban so it can get more aid money from the US. Is it really so surprising?

It was great reporting though, but I am quite apprehensive at what the timing of it along with the cross-border raid mean.

9/07/2008 9:02 PM  
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