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Pakistani insurgency poses threat to global community

By Dan Gorry
On March 30, 2014

As the final stages of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan approach, a Taliban insurgency within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of neighboring Pakistan grows ever more dreadful. Pakistan's FATA district, which is the eastern most province sharing a 1,640 mile long border with Afghanistan, is a largely autonomous territory predominately populated by the Pashtun ethnic group.As the final stages of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan approach, a Taliban insurgency within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of neighboring Pakistan grows ever more dreadful. Pakistan's FATA district, which is the eastern most province sharing a 1,640 mile long border with Afghanistan, is a largely autonomous territory predominately populated by the Pashtun ethnic group. In 2004, Pakistan's dictator Pervez Musharraf sent the Pakistani Army into the FATA district for the first time since the country's 1947 inception. The Pashtun people-who inordinately make up the majority of Afghanistan's population and the Taliban's membership -believe the Pakistani Army incursion is an attempt to subjugate the Pashtun tribes as they have never accepted the British imposition of the Durand Line, which split the tribes between two states. The ensuing conflict between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban has become known as the War in North-West Pakistan, and the elusive prospect of peace between the two sides poses a serious existential threat to the whole global community.
The FATA district serves as the base of operations for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is commanded by recently elected Amir Maulana Fazlullah. The TTP provides shelter and logistical support for Mullah Omar's Afghani Taliban as the frustration of coalition efforts in Afghanistan is considered a fulfillment of both organization's central goal of combating imperialism, but the Afghani Taliban do not reciprocate aid in the TTP's quest for independence from Pakistan.
One of the TTP's other major goals is the imposition of fundamentalist Islam, and the often violent tactics employed to coerce the local population into submission have resulted in the formation of a 30,000-strong anti-Taliban militia called Lashkar. The militiamen within Lashkar view the TTP as a violent gang of meddling foreigners, but to further incentivize Lashkar in their fight the Pakistani and U.S. governments have offered to construct $5 billion worth of infrastructure within the FATA district. The U.S., in particular hopes that the successes-albeit temporary-of its locally staffed anti-insurgency Iraqi Armed Forces can be reproduced with Lashkar in Pakistan. A significant obstacle to this end is the continued CIA Drone War in Pakistan, which has killed up to 951 civilians according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as the drone campaign is universally opposed by the local population due to often indiscriminate targeting of innocents and the drone campaign's propensity for shifting locals' sympathies towards the TTP.
So why is the War in North-West Pakistan of any consequence to the global community? Well, to answer that you have to factor in Pakistan's status as a nuclear-armed power along with its chronically weak civil state. Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder point out that as much as the Pakistani population fears the Islamist insurgency, which has victoriously driven its offensive into Pakistan's other provinces, of greater concern is the possibility that Washington sends in forces to capture Pakistan's nuclear arms. They elaborate that the U.S. raid of Osama's Abottabad compound has prompted the Pakistani military to begin transporting the country's nuclear materials around in unmarked vans with the intent of confounding U.S. intelligence agencies, and you can probably guess how poor of an idea that is with an active insurgency spilling out across the state. The TTP and its al-Qaeda allies have been tantalized by the prospect of acquiring one of Pakistan's nuclear weapons for over a decade, as is evidenced in the testimony of two Pakistani nuclear scientists, Suleiman Asad and Muhammad Ali Mukhtar, who confessed in 2001 to having trained individuals from both insurgent groups on how to construct a crude nuclear device. Should the insurgency get their hands on such a device, they will undoubtedly deploy the weapon in Mumbai or some other population center of India, which has a chance of setting off a chain-reaction of mutually assured destruction.
Fortunately, an ongoing peace summit is being conducted in the FATA district between the Pakistani government and insurgent factions. Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif has come under significant political pressure to quell the violence, and serious doubts remain that his administration can even enforce any peace-agreement, but President Sharif cautioned that a failure of diplomacy would only result in an escalation of the conflict. The U.S. and the international community as a whole would be wise to lend all the assistance President Sharif needs in constructing and maintaining a peace-agreement or the consequences of continued conflict could be unfathomably catastrophic.
 


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