The mystery of praise

For the US to say that the Taliban strongholds in Pakistan are “shrinking” should come as a surprise to those who have been used to hearing it consistently moan at Pakistan’s ‘unwillingness’ to take on certain groups of the Taliban who are supposedly making life difficult for the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. However, President Obama’s State of the Union address has to be seen in its real perspective. First, with this pat on the back of Islamabad, Mr Obama wants to encourage it to move its forces into North Waziristan.

Under no circumstances, the government should pick up the bait and waver in its focus on the post-2014 period when the US would have withdrawn. Also, there is hardly any need to bring out here the US moves in the region that clearly go against the interests of Pakistan, pointedly revealing its penchant for helping promote the Indian designs, be it New Delhi’s role in Held Kashmir, or be it its meddling in Balochistan and FATA.

Secondly, Mr Obama would like to reassure the Republicans and those Americans who are opposed to the troop pull-out to begin by July this year, while the terror of militancy to emanate from Afghanistan remains alive, that it has markedly whittled down. His emphasis on the view that the US-led forces have pushed the Taliban out of some of their important strongholds is designed to appease that lobby. The truth lies in seeing the occupied country as a whole. Winter is the season when the local fighters tend to lie low, biding time to let the severity of the cold give way to pleasanter weather.

The past 30-years of foreign-created turmoil is witness to this experience. If Mr Obama’s point of the weakening of the Taliban threat is to be judged, one should not ignore the reality of US and allied forces’ casualties last summer, making 2010 the deadliest year for them since the invasion. Besides, the Taliban are trying to tire out the foreign troops and, in the process, have spread out to the areas previously known for their lack of resistance. Being the sons of the soil, the Taliban (Pashtuns) could easily restart the operation in the areas, the US claims, have them cleared. The “tough fighting” ahead that the US President predicts tells the real story – Nation