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The Pakistani Precipice: Negotiating With the Taliban and Americans, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1195

Essay

As a political and philosophical movement, the radical practices of the Taliban exist in many forms worldwide. In Pakistan, its collective groups- known together as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan- disagree with leaders even of similar beliefs. The two prevalent misconceptions about Taliban operations in Pakistan often speculate that a) support from the common people overwhelms government censure and b) that the Taliban functions as an unorganized, third-world bunch of cave-dwelling miscreants. However, according to Lieven, about thirty percent of the Afghan population sympathizes with the Taliban cause. (“Taliban to the Table”) Pakistani officials- caught between a large body of internal support for resistance to American cooperation and a desire to avoid provoking American anger and retaliation- walk a dangerous political tight-rope with what seems to be a wait-and-see approach. However, outsiders can only speculate about the real feelings of Pakistani officials and about the ultimate results of the elaborate and deadly political game which the government remains caught up in.

According to Lieven’s “Taliban to the Table,” the eventuality of reaching a political compromise between governments and people’s movements, such as the Taliban, seems clear to both. A strong alliance with any of the groups competing for Pakistan favor does not suit the government’s needs at this time. Taliban failure loses the support of a large segment of the population, while an overwhelming success might allow a rebellion which unifies Middle Eastern countries with greater support—with India a willing supporter of taking action against a potential Taliban insurrection. Counterterrorism expert Brian Fishman cites Taliban easy infiltration of existing paramilitary extremist groups poses its greatest terroristic threat, a threat which decreasing attacks and an appearance of latency does little to diminish. The unification of unorganized or ineffectual resistance groups under a militaristic international power which recognizes only the limited authority of others and accedes to no rules of war and conduct (Bajoria 2)

Pakistani Taliban leader Haimullah Mehsud expresses his desire to negotiate with the government and the prime minister with regards to settling hostilities. However, Mehsud’s open encouragement of attacks against ‘America and its friends’ restrict the governmental acceptance of Mehsud’s methods. Allegedly, unofficially orchestrated by US military officials, drones attacked and killed Mehsud’s second-in-command earlier this year. Although Pakistani officials complied with similar, official requests from the United States, such as the bombing of hostile areas, Mehsud proclaims his desire to reach a ceasefire. (Simpson) While Mehsud declares his willingness to negotiate with Pakistani officials and shuns American allies, the collaboration between the two nations lends itself to the continuation of unofficial hostilities like those undertaken against Mehsud’s Taliban lieutenant. (“Taliban to the Table”)

Historically, Islamists in modern-day Pakistan- and the Taliban in particular- war with any government which seeks to impose their will, especially after Pakistan publicly supported America following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (PAKISTAN: A HARD COUNTRY 489) Nonetheless, American support in Pakistan also remains tenuous. Weitz writes:

“The United States has pursued several initiatives to reduce tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan and to encourage both governments to concentrate their attention on countering the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists operating inside their territories”. (1)

This objective defies Pakistani best interests at this time, although government officials privately recognize that a choice must occur or will be forced by one party or the other, and regional opposition to the Taliban- mainly from the Northern Alliance- employs equally brutal, terroristic methods and thus cannot be formally allied with the United States (Weitz 2)

The question of making appropriate alliances faces every party involved in the conflict. After previous Pakistani leadership influenced tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both governments agree that goals of the past twenty years have changed and that the diplomatic agreement for shared power best served the needs and aspirations of all. (“Taliban to the Table”) Taliban insiders have their own reasons to turn in Mehsud: a five million dollar reward from America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Simpson)  After Mehsud’s very public invitation to negotiate for peace, little response occurred. Whether through violence or peace, Mehsud’s agenda seems fixed upon gaining some recognition from the Pakistani government. “The sectarian extremists…in 2008 – 10 also turned to increasingly savage terrorist attacks in alliance with the Pakistani Taleban against state targets.” (PAKISTAN: A HARD COUNTRY 488)For example, a 2009 report documented the Pakistani Taliban’s increasing utilization of children in its dangerous directives, including suicidal attacks. (Bajoria 1)

In May 2011, the Pakistani Taliban boasts its involvement with the murderous bombing of a paramilitary academy and its ‘defensive jihad’ against the Pakistan government in response to their role in the death of Osama bin Laden while a rash of less severe attacks linked them unofficially to wide scale acts of revenge. (Bajoria) Pakistani President Hamid Karzai hedges his bets. Although he never makes direct threats against the Taliban, he opens lines of communication with India and Iran, following a September 2011 assassination of the Afghan peace commissioner by a ‘peace envoy’ from the Taliban. (Weitz 2-3) Pakistan experiences breaches of trust regularly. After the death of US Ranger Pat Tillman, the release of relevant American army reports reveal that American rules of engagement permitted limited military operations within Pakistan- without first notifying any Pakistani officials or receiving any form of permission. (Weitz 4-5) The CIA blatantly acknowledges their distrust of Pakistanis, explaining that secretive measures sought to avoid unofficial cooperation between leaders within the Pakistan government and the Taliban. (Bajoria 3)

Mehmud quickly accuses the Pakistani government of being duped by the Americans and hesitant to pursue peace, but Pakistanis and Afghans refer to the ‘peace envoy’ assassination of 2011 as a model of Taliban negotiation, honor, and authority. Pakistani government cannot visibly side with Americans at this time either, whose private agendas and actions minimize their leaders’ efficacy at a time during which the appearance of strength affects the very lives of its officials. Whether called a precipice, a tight-rope, or a game of Russian roulette, the high risk and disastrous final results appear indubitable, and all efforts for peace emphasize the likelihood that the resolution of Pakistani conflicts between its government, the Afghans, the Taliban, and America will be a matter of time and circumstance, a point only elucidated by Afghan governmental attempts to bond with players in the Pakistani Taliban “in order to find a trump card in baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year.” (Rosenberg) Due to the more hostile and covert nature of attacks made by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan since September 11, 2001, particularly in the last three years, the degree of retaliation only increases the tension as the waiting game continues.

Works Cited

Bajoria, Jayshree. “Pakistan’s New Generation of Terrorists.” Council on Foreign Relations, 13 May 2013. Web. Accessed 28 October 2013. http://relooney.fatcow.com/SI_Expeditionary/Pakistan-Crisis_76.pdf.

Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan: A Hard Country, 2011. PublicAffairs. Print.

Lieven, Anatol. “Taliban to the Table,” 21 June 2013. The New York Times. Accessed 26 October 2013.

Rosenberg, Matthew. “U.S. Disrupts Afghans’ Tack on Militants,” 28 October 2013. The New York Times. Accessed 28 October 2013.

Simpson, John. “Pakistan Taliban head Hakimullah Mehsud ‘open to talks,’ ” 9 October 2013. BBC News Online. Accessed 27 October 2013.

Weitz, Richard. “Afghan-Pakistan Border Rules: The U.S. Role,” 2012. Eurasia Border Review 3.1: Hokkaido University. Accessed 27 October 2013.

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