Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pakistan's Swat Valley: Civilians, Soldiers, and the Taliban

A unilateral military offensive is endangering innocent civilians. Except that it isn't the American military: so the tone is a bit different.

To be fair, there have been some of the conventional headlines, like "Army offensive in Pakistan's Swat spurs fears of humanitarian crisis." (CBC (May 7, 2009))

Pakistani troops are re-taking Pakistan's SWAT valley, after the Pakistani government turned over control (for practical purposes) of the valley to the Taliban, earlier this year. To be fair again, there may have been good reason to temporarily cede control to the Taliban.

What's happening now is unpleasant, to say the least. One article describes a city in Swat as a "ghost town." (AFP)

'If You Can't Kill a Soldier, Kill a Civilian'

A Pakistani English-language news article gave this perspective on what was happening in the Swat valley:
"Northwest expert Rahimullah Yusufzai said the Taliban were increasingly focused on civilian targets as widespread public opinion turns — for the first time — in favour of Pakistan's military operation.

"The offensive already has the firm backing of Washington, which says Al-Qaeda and Taliban have carved out safe havens in the northwestern areas bordering Afghanistan to plot terror attacks on the West.

" 'The Taliban have jacked up attacks targeting civilians as they have failed to target security forces,' Yusufzai said...."
Sounds like the Taliban is taking a page from Al Qaeda's playbook: harassing people living around them, in order to gain support. In Iraq, that strategy resulted in the Anbar Awakening. Iraqis, faced with Muslims who beheaded other Muslims and non-Muslim foreigners who protected Muslims while rebuilding roads and machinery, chose to help the non-Muslims.

Something like that could happen in Pakistan: provided that the Pakistani military follow America's example of being careful (Churchill and Code Pink notwithstanding) about collateral damage.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.