A rescue plan for Pakistan
Without bold, urgent action, the country – and its nuclear weapons – could fall to the Taliban.
The Margalla Hills offer breathtaking vistas of Pakistan's federal capital, Islamabad. On a clear day, picnic-goers can see from historic Faisal Mosque to Rawalpindi, home of Pakistan's military nerve center. One day soon, however, this national park's densely forested hills could also provide perfect cover for Taliban fighters to rain down rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles on Islamabad itself.Skip to next paragraph
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The Taliban's bid to seize control of Pakistan is now clearly mapped out after its forces this week overtook Buner district, home to about a million Pakistanis just 70 miles from the capital. Top US military official Mike Mullen is in Islamabad for emergency meetings, and Pakistan has sent in troops to restore order. But the damage from earlier appeasement is done.
As one politician from Buner told The New York Times, "We felt stronger as long as we thought the government was with us, but when the government showed weakness, we stopped offering resistance to the Taliban."
Many Tajik followers of Al Qaeda occupying Buner will now surely join forces with the Taliban to beef up their next wave of attacks. Altogether, the Taliban may soon control nearly 1,000 square miles of safe territory within Pakistani borders.
The failure of Pakistani political leadership to stem the Taliban's tide now brings Washington's 3 a.m. wake-up call – nuclear weapons in the hands of extremists – closer than ever to becoming reality. The United States has given its allies in Islamabad political and financial assistance in every way possible for far too long with too few meaningful constraints, only to watch Pakistan destroy itself.
In eight short months since coming to office, President Asif Ali Zardari has managed to cede large parcels of Pakistan's land to the Taliban; to release Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the most dangerous nuclear proliferator in history; to permit the flogging of a 17-year-old girl whose wails are now etched in the world's memory as the image of modern-day Pakistani jurisprudence; and to allow publicly funded gatherings of Pakistan's equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan in Punjab government buildings.