Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It's hard to put any other interpretation on the recent deal in Pakistan that implements sharia law in Swat with the government's blessing. Syed Saleem Shahzad of the Asia Times does the summing up, and he sees it as a grave set back to US strategies.

As the eighth year of the Afghan war continues, it is clear that the Taliban, and according to Shahzad also al-Qaida, have succeeded in making Pakistan one of the front lines of the war. The weakened state structure there has reached the point that the Pakistan government is forced to make overt, rather than covert, deals with the Taliban in order to keep the insurgency from spreading to Punjab and Singh.

Shahzad also says that the deal will free up trained fighters currently in Swat for Afghanistan. Obama's decision to escalate could now be met with a further escalation of Taliban. Meanwhile Petraeus is off trying to convince Uzbekistan to allow supplies to be delivered through their country. But the war in Afghanistan, even if ripe for disaster for the US and NATO, is now just a sideshow to the big war in Pakistan. There the US is far more circumscribed in its actions, and those actions it can take seem only to make matters worse.

Obama's escalation is still not the full 30,000 troops requested by the generals, and may be necessary just to avoid a general breakdown. I would think that the upcoming weeks will tell the tale of how the US will be proceeding. From what I've seen so far of the new administration, I fear the worst.


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