The current situation in Pakistan is heading towards disaster. The Taliban, from Afghanistan and the border areas in Pakistan, are posing a grave risk to the state. The already weak Pakistani government is on complete verge of failure. (See CNN for instance http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/06/pakistan.swat.valley/index.html) A failure in Pakistan will have disastrous effects across the world.
First of all, a failure would negate the gains that have been made in the region since 9/11. Bush’s war in Afghanistan successfully removed the Taliban from power and, at one point, had them completely marginalized. Now under our new, ‘global-friendly’ leadership we are seeing a huge resurgence in their power. Certainly, not all of this is due to Obama’s faulty foreign policy. The fall of Musharraf and a myriad of domestic issues, such as the infighting amongst current moderates, play an enormous role in the current weak state of the country. However, a rebirth of Taliban leadership in Pakistan (and possibly Afghanistan) would be disastrous for the progress of the war on terror, the elimination of fanatical Islam, and establishment of global security.
The issue of global security is paramount. A re-failure to stem the Taliban’s ascent in Afghanistan would be bad enough. It would serve to undermine all the hard work over the past eight years. However, a failure in Pakistan is most certainly an existential threat to the U.S. Due to the nuclear capabilities of the country, a failure would mean there would be no accountability for Pakistan’s current nuclear stockpile. The Taliban would have access to nuclear warheads- to use themselves or sell to third parties such as Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda, or any enemy of the free world. This threat exists even short of a failure of the state. The Taliban could easily seize a few unfortunately placed nuclear warheads without having to take down the state.
The world community has to address this issue in a much stronger and more forthright way. In the short run, everything has to be done to stabilize and strengthen the current government in Pakistan. Money and assistance should flow in readily. Pressure should be put on corrupt or disinterested bureaucrats. Most importantly, the world must put immense pressure on the Pakistani government to cease making conciliatory deals with the Taliban. The current deal of Taliban weaponry for sharia law is unacceptable. These deals only serve to postpone the fighting and allow the Taliban to retrench itself. The army must be convinced that it needs to fight in the North. They must do everything they can to remove Taliban strongholds. This includes Pakistani military action, but also increased coordination and facilitation of American cross-border attacks on Taliban positions in Pakistan. The United States has to unapologetically go after targets in Pakistan, preferably with, but also without Pakistani assistance and blessings.
Furthermore, the world community must take steps to prepare for the worst case scenario of a government failure. The current government needs to be pressured to consolidate stockpiles of nuclear weapons away from the north. This will ensure that they are easy to account for and control. America must plan operations for an invasion of Pakistan. This, of course, needs to be a last resort; however, if the government fails the United States needs to secure Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile immediately. The Pakistani government needs to cooperate with the US (and the UN) to create ‘zero-hour’ contingencies- such as disclosures of stockpiles. [One necessary consideration is, of course, India- which Pakistan feels (incorrectly) is its number one threat.]
Pakistan is one issue where we cannot afford Obama’s ‘speak-humbly’ foreign policy. Every action must be taken to shore up the Pakistani government and decimate the Taliban. Right now, stability should be the sole goal. If not, we run the risk of facing catastrophic results.