Warning, by clicking the link to the Reuters story in the NyTimes you will see a disturbing photo. The link is here.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – At least 40 people were killed on Saturday in a suspected suicide car bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the city’s police chief reported.
The attack was timed at the exact moment that the new president of Pakistan, Zardari (widower of Benazir Bhutto) was to first address the parliament and call for a crackdown on militants. The attack then sends the signal that the government is not in control, can not protect citiizens and most importantly can not protect foreigners–the Marriott in Islamabad is a major foreign (mostly Western) hang out.
The Reuters article unhelpfully in some ways refers to “al-Qaeda-linked militants” as having suffered a series of attacks by the government. If I had to guess who was behind this, it would be the head of the Pakistani Taliban from Waziristan, Baitullah Mahsud. He is the main suspect behind the assassination of Bhutto and this has all the hallmarks of their operation. The other major candidate would be Jalaludin Haqqani who is thought to have been behind the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul and is perversely known as the father of suicide bombing in Afghan/Pakistan.
This entire strategy of predator drones/airstrikes into Waziristan, special forces in there, the Pakistanis announcing that they will attack any NATO/US soldiers who cross into Pakistan (!!!!!), needs to be fundamentally re-thought. Pakistan is being destabilized–Pakistan with a NUCLEAR WEAPON, that Pakistan. The most dangerous nation on the planet getting more dangerous by the minute.
Suicide bombing is a tactic of populations perceived to be under occupation.
I’m glad I’m not in charge on this one because I have no idea what to do. If you leave it alone, the Taliban is too strong and too well equipped/financed not to overrun all kinds of places, especially in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the Taliban just want (at this point) to be left alone and left to rule their haunts. But in Afghanistan they want the government back.
But a cynic or maybe a realist would ask how we could simply disentangle al-Qaeda from the Taliban and make our fight only with them. But that just doesn’t seem possible. Mullah Omar, Mahsud, Haqqani, too many of them are connected with AQ. From such a perch it seems inevitable to me that AQ would successfully land another attack–probably on Britain not the US but possibly in the US as well.
That worries me for the obvious reason of loss of life but also for the hysteria/over-reaction that accompanied the September 11th attacks. Another attack and God only knows what more civil liberties we would lose.
It seems a real damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. And by damned here I mean people damned to death. I don’t mean that in some vague gotcha sense or political campaigns. This is real human life here.
At the end of the day, the Pakistanis it seems to me don’t really want this fight. Zardari does because his whole power lies in it. He is the fulfillment of the US-backed plan to install Benazir Bhutto, which at the time was a Bhutto-Musharraf power sharing arrangement but now is a Bhutto-clan only scenario. Nawaz Sharif of course is running to unseat the government on an anti-US, pro-Pakistani sovereignty platform (and undoubtedly a peace with honor/deal with the Taliban plank). Bhutto got US approval because she told the West she would take on the militants (never mind that she helped them prosper in the first place).
So that’s where it all is now.