20 May 2010

What's Going on in Swat

The analysis is not pretty. Go read the whole article.

Unfortunately information from Swat is limited and controlled by Islamabad. Pakistan’s press is a cheerleader, contributing little beyond the government narrative, whereas the foreign media is forbidden from traveling north of the capital city of Mingora and views Swat as yesterday's story. What is known is largely gleaned from intrepid NGOs and foreign humanitarian agencies, which hear firsthand from Pakistanis across the district.

What can be said with certainty is that Swat has not been pacified. A degree of security has been established only in Mingora and areas south of the city (accounting for perhaps a fifth of the district), and suicide bombs and murders of pro-government political leaders persist. The north of the valley is still characterized by serious violence and instability, and many refugees who fled last year have failed many times to return to their homes. The Taliban organization has been disrupted but hardly eliminated. While many Taliban fighters have been killed, many others—including most of their leadership—simply fled the army onslaught to nearby hills, distant cities, or to Afghanistan, where they network with other extremists. Now, they are coming back.

The mainstays of Swat's economy—agriculture and tourism—remain largely in the dumps, and much land has been destroyed or abandoned. Swat will need life support for a long time to come, and since the civilian authorities lack the capacity to deliver services or police the reclaimed territory, the army and Taliban compete to fill that void. Meanwhile, although the bulk of the public opposes the Taliban, popular disaffection for the government and army—the former seen as corrupt and unresponsive, the latter as high-handed in dealing with civilians—is growing.

To use the preferred U.S. counterinsurgency frame: Swat isn’t clear, is proving difficult to hold, and has seen little real building. In fact, the Swat operation goes against nearly everything in the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency playbook: insurgents are still able to move about with impunity, the district is in a dangerous limbo, and civilians are caught between the Taliban and vengeful army forces. Those suspected of even tenuous Taliban links can end up victims of extrajudicial killings, and a similar fate awaits those the Taliban view as government or army “collaborators.”

By: Brant

No comments: