The simple truth that has eluded Pakistan is that fighting the Taliban is like fighting a shadow. The Taliban are but a symptom, the real problem is of religious extremism which is manifesting itself in radical Islamism and has struck deep roots in state and society.
The situation in Pakistan today is very fragile. Despite the progress on the democratic front, there is a sense of helplessness on how to tackle the menace of terrorism. Unlike in the past, Islamabad appears quite weak vis-à-vis Taliban while it keeps chanting its commitment to talks with TTP, despite the provocation and retaliation from the army.
The Taliban spring offensive is aimed at exploiting the situation and driving home the advantage. The present lull in coalition operations and indecision on the future outlook of international forces is adding to the Taliban’s advantage.
Unless the Central Asian states, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and Russia jointly contribute towards ensuring stability, Afghanistan is likely to fall to the Taliban again or even break up.
India will remain a card in the hand of any future Afghan dispensation (whether Taliban or anti-Taliban) to strengthen its negotiating position with Pakistan.
Whatever John R. Schmidt’s aims, the arguments that he has employed do not stand the test of casual perusal leave alone scrutiny.
The subject assumes significance in view of the politics evolving around the idea of negotiating peace, especially with the Taliban, as the West plans to withdraw bulk of their troops by 2014.
In a positive movement, ISAF’s peace enforcement operation over time will have to shift to peacekeeping. Thinking through the idea of UN-SAARC hybrid peacekeeping mission now could help catalyse the peace process eventually.
Both India and Pakistan must immediately review their security practices for the protection of vital and vulnerable national assets, which in Pakistan’s case must also include nuclear weapons.