As Pakistani president Asaf Ali Zardari arrived in Washington for talks with President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, fighting intensified in Pakistan’s northwest.
On Tuesday morning, Pakistani Taliban deployed a suicide bomber to attack Pakistani security forces near Peshawar killing 5 and wounding 9 persons, among them school children bystanders.
WaPo says that fighting had intensified Monday in the Swat Valley between the Pakistani Taliban and government troops, as well as in Buner, the district into which they recently made an incursion and from which the government has been attempting to dislodge them. So far some 80 militants have been killed in the Buner campaign, and 20,000 civilians have been displaced.
Convinced that Pakistan’s problems are in part rooted in economic issues, Sens. John Kerry and Dick Lugar introduced legislation Monday aimed at tripling US foreign aid to Islamabad.
Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is calling on Saudi Arabia to help Pakistan crush the Pakistani Taliban. The Saudis have developed a fear of the vigilante radicals that they once supported back in the 1980s, and spent 2003-2006 suppressing them at home, and perhaps by now Gates’s idea makes some sense.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen expressed confidence that Pakistani nuclear warheads are secure. This is surely correct– the Pakistani military can easily defeat any assault on its facilities by poorly armed tribesmen, and the tribesmen are unlikely even to have intelligence as to the whereabouts of the arsenal.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration’s hyperbole about the Pakistani security situation has caused a 15 percent increase in the percentage of Americans who are “very concerned” about Pakistan’s nukes.
Dawn reports that concerns about the spread of “Talibanization” in Karachi among the Pushtun immigrants there may say more about ethnic conflict between them and the Muhajir or Urdu-speaking, Indian-origin majority in the city than about a realistic assessment that any significant number of Karachi Pushtuns favors radical forms of Islam.
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