It’s only May, and already the Taliban seems to be having a red letter year. Beginning with the attack on the Swat valley and ending, so far, with the news that it is only a hair’s breadth away from taking over Pakistan, it is rapidly climbing the charts to becoming the one crisis besides the impending ‘third Depression’ that might cause the world to agree on something. This is not the first time that it has made its presence known. The attack on the Twin Towers in New York seven years ago served as sort of an announcement to the world, bringing the face of terror from obscure regions in Afghanistan into people’s homes.
One question remains, however: Why is it that terror is so rampant these days? What makes terrorists more daring than they used to be?
Historically, the Taliban was a force created by the ISI with the help of funds from the US, initially to battle the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, once it had arrived, it quickly established control over large parts of Afghanistan, obtaining territory from the Afghan lords without so much as murmur from them. Camps to train youth in the ways of its particular form of doctrine were set up in Pakistan, where they still exist, and through which, they began to gain control over Pakistan. There are not so secret suspicions that General Musharraf, the former dictator, co-operated with the Taliban; in any case, it is also clear now, that the ISI, responsible for the origins of what was supposed to be a group to repel intruders but instead bit the hand that fed it, is backing its baby. The inept democracy under Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, is close to the brink of failure itself, barely hanging on by the tips of its fingernails. Consequently it is not a question of whether Pakistan will fall, but when.
Perhaps that is why terrorists are so bold these days; because their opponents are weak, because the owners are defenseless as the guard dog turns against them…what threat, they possibly think, can the outside world be if their own country cannot stand up to their might?
They are not entirely wrong. So far, in spite of its promises, America has done woefully little to actually fulfill them, choosing instead to risk the lives of its soldiers by sending them into a battle fighting blind. President Obama’s decision to provide Afghanistan with more military funding had a lot of people all over the world up in arms. India is too busy with its own elections and tied by Pakistan’s refusal to accept responsibility for the Taj attacks to do anything concrete. There is also the risk of Pakistan accusing India of jumping the gun, as it were, if India does take any drastic steps, not to mention Pakistan’s store of nuclear weapons.
These are the only two possible threats to the Taliban’s advance and so far, they haven’t been particularly threatening at all. The motive appears clear to some: Take over Pakistan and then set sights on India.
So far, they have not been hindered much. Only a warning from the US sent them away from Islamabad last week. However, one does not believe it will last. Sooner or later they will begin again. They have tasted power and by all accounts, it is not something easily forgotten, indeed something famously capable of absolute corruption. So, they will come, and this time they might not stop, and why should they? In a few months, Pakistan might be ready to be handed over to them on a silver platter. That alone makes them bolder, more eager to believe in victory.
It is a game. A game with dangerously high stakes, where the world has no choice but to wait for them to make their move, and one that the Taliban are getting very good at. It is no wonder they are confident.