Sunday, September 7, 2008

Right at the Edge

....When I asked Jan, the tribal elder, about the negotiations that Ghani had described for me — talks between the country’s new civilian leaders and FATA’s tribal elders — Jan laughed. “The only negotiations are between the army and the Taliban, between the army and Baitullah Mehsud,” he said. “There are no government officials taking part in any negotiations. There are no tribal elders taking part.
....It’s a very close relationship,” Jan said, describing the meetings between the Pakistan Army and the Taliban. “The army and the Taliban are friends. Whenever a Taliban fighter is killed, army officers go to his funeral. They bring money to the family.

...And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation -- one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military's complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military's "strategic games." Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.

"Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate," the official told me. "The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works."
.....Finally, there is the problem of the Pakistan Army’s competence. For all the myths that officers like Musharraf have spread about the institution, the simple fact is that it isn’t very good. The Pakistan Army has lost every war it has ever fought. And it isn’t trained to battle an insurgency. Each of the half-dozen offensives the army has launched into the tribal areas since 2004 has left it bloodied and humbled.

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