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Pakistan Deals with the Taliban, Obama Remains Silent

February 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Three days ago the Pakistani government made headlines when it announced a deal that it would accept a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and effectively concede the area to Taliban militants. While the Obama administration has remained silent on the issue, officials have admitted that it is a major setback for U.S. goals and an admission that the Pakistani government is incapable of defending the western part of the country from the encroaching Taliban.

While this accord seems to fly in the face of the Obama administration’s goals in the region, two days have passed and a Washington Post article reports that the accord seems to have stalled, perhaps due to pressure from the West.

The government’s position on the deal remained unclear, creating further anxiety. President Zardari, reportedly under pressure from the West, went a second day without signing the pact of making public the details of the law system.

Some local leaders in Swat accuse the national government of sabotaging their chance for peace with the Taliban in the valley. However, despite claims that the inhabitants want peace at any cost, there remains uncertainty as to whether the Taliban will abide by the accord.

In the Swat Valley, a second day of confusion and uncertainty about the pact passed Wednesday, with rising hopes and a jubilant peace march among the local population, followed by the brutal killing of a Pakistani TV journalist, Musa Khan Khel. He was apparently seized and shot by fighters while covering the peace march, despite a Taliban offer of a 10-day cease-fire while elements of the accord are implemented.

While Obama’s recent announcement that he will be sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan indicates the seriousness with which he is tackling the war, the situation in Pakistan is outside of the U.S. military’s domain. The U.S. has to rely on air strikes from drones and the Pakistani military but the recent accord made with the Taliban in the Swat valley seems to be a blatant attempt on behalf of the Pakistani government at appeasement, risking legitimizing the militants and complicating the U.S. mission in the region.

Delegations from Pakistan and Afghanistan will arrive next week in Washington for high-level talks, but between now and then, the remainder of the 10-day implementation period for the accord will elapse, making the next 7 days critical in shaping how the Obama administration will react.

–Ella Lipin, Trinity ’10

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