How should we view the recent resurgence of Taliban activity in Pakistan?
Be afraid, very afraid.
That’s a common message voiced by media and political observers in recent weeks. Pakistan’s government could go the way of the Shah of Iran in 1979, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Taliban threats to Pakistan’s leadership represent the worst global crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a RAND Corporation official tells the Financial Times.
And it’s hard not to be moved by the devastation occurring in Pakistani regions like the Swat Valley. Doctors Without Borders announced today that it was halting medical services to refugees in Swat due to escalating warfare.
But could all this fear of a Taliban takeover in Pakistan be blinding the U.S. to local realities? An Economist report notes that for all the Taliban’s repellent acts in Swat, the Pakistani military has engendered deep local hostility by its brutal strikes on civilian targets. Rather than pushing for further billions of dollars in military aid for Pakistan to stave off an unlikely Taliban takeover, U.S. leaders would do well to pay more attention to the shaping of local hearts and minds. Central Asia Institute, the education non-profit co-founded by Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, is one example of a worthy U.S. effort to build rather than break human capital in Pakistan.
Watch the Global Pulse episode on Pakistan here.