The Two Talibans

Yesterday, the New York Times published an excellent piece by Scott Shane which analyzes the complexities of the insurgencies underway in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/world/asia/23taliban.html?hpw).  Mr. Shane does a nice job of highlighting the differences between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, which have similar ideologies but different strategic goals.  I highly recommend the article to anyone interested in learning more about the Af-Pak situation.

Ironically, the Pakistani Taliban might pose more danger to the Afghan Taliban than any other political force.  The Afghan Taliban currently have a sanctuary in the tribal regions of Pakistan which they use as a base to launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.  But the Pakistani Taliban, which share the same territorial haven, have been attacking government installations in Pakistan, and the Pakistani army recently responded by launching an offensive into militant-controlled areas.  The perception that the Pakistani Taliban is a grave threat to Pakistan’s national security is the only thing that could motivate the Pakistani military to occupy the tribal regions and take away the safe haven that the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups now possess. 

On another ironic note, the Pakistani Taliban might prove to be a great help to the US if they provoke the Pakistani establishment to make a sustained effort to eliminate the militant stronghold where the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda reside.  The only way that the American-led coalition can achieve its strategic objective in Afghanistan is for the Pakistani security forces to prevent the Afghan Taliban from using Pakistan’s tribal areas as an insurgent base, and the Pakistani Taliban might compel the Pakistani government to adopt such a policy.

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