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Jewish World Review
May 11, 2009
/ 17 Iyar 5769
There's little evidence that thinking about the unthinkable hasproduced any new thinking
When his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister of Pakistan, Asif
Ali Zardari was known as "Mr. 10 percent" for his penchant for graft.
Now that he is president of Pakistan, Mr. Zardari is called "Mr. 100
percent," to denote both his increased avariciousness and diminished
President Zardari was in Washington this week to meet with President
Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. There was an urgency to the
meeting, because Taliban guerrillas have advanced to within 60 miles of
the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
It would be "unthinkable" for the Taliban to overthrow the government of
Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with
Fox news April 26, because "then they would have the keys to the nuclear
arsenal of Pakistan."
It's good to think about the "unthinkable," because when challenged by a
ruthless, ideologically motivated domestic enemy, corrupt, incompetent,
unpopular regimes can disappear seemingly overnight. On December 31,
1958, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista hosted a lavish New Year's Eve
party. The next day he was in exile as Fidel Castro's guerrillas took
over the country. In August of 1978, a CIA analysis declared Iran "is
not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation." On Jan.
16, 1979, the Shah fled and the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini took
It's approaching New Year's Eve in Islamabad. So far, the Taliban, who
are Pashtuns, have been strong only in the Pashtun regions of Pakistan
(15.4 percent of Pakistanis are Pashtuns, compared to 44.7 percent
Punjabi and 14.1 percent Sindh, according to the CIA World Factbook).
But that's changing fast, said Alex Alexiev of the Hudson Institute.
"The greatest immediate danger lies in the huge inroads made by the
fanatics in the Punjab heartland, especially southern Punjab and the key
urban areas (Lahore, Multan, Karachi)," Mr. Alexiev wrote in National
Review Online Thursday. "If the Punjab becomes ungovernable, Pakistan
will not survive long as a unitary state."
CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus said a week ago the next two weeks
will determine whether the Pakistani government will survive.
But there's little evidence that thinking about the unthinkable has
produced any new thinking. Mr. Zardari emerged from the White House
meetings with a public pledge of support from President Obama and a
promise of yet more economic and military aid.
American military leaders are frustrated because Pakistan has a 650,000
person military, the seventh largest in the world, and reputedly the
best in the Muslim world. Why can't they defeat the Taliban?
The answer is simple. They don't really want to.
It is important to remember the Taliban is in large part the creation of
Pakistan's InterService Intelligence Agency (ISI). Relations between
the ISI and the army have often been chilly, but Islamist sentiment has
been rising in the army, too.
Fraternal relations are a larger factor. About 12 percent of Pakistan's
soldiers are Pashtuns. Many soldiers who don't share the fundamentalist
zeal of the Taliban are unwilling to turn their guns on their relatives.
For the Pakistani military, the real enemy is India, and the U.S.
military aid that doesn't find its way into Swiss bank accounts is
devoted to preparing for a conventional war with that increasingly
important U.S. ally. (Pakistan started all four previous wars with
It was the Pakistani military that was behind the sham truces with the
Taliban that helped it consolidate power over most of the Northwest
territories, and military officers were complicit in the terror attack
on the Indian city of Mumbai last November.
"Officials in India say…Pakistan has no will to challenge the Taliban
and other jihadi groups because it needs them to carry out terrorist
attacks in India and to maintain its influence in Afghanistan," the
London Telegraph reported Thursday.
"The Taliban, murderous as it is, is not the problem," Mr. Alexiev said.
"The problem is the Pakistani military and the stubborn refusal of
Washington to comprehend this basic reality."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration.
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