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Pakistan Disintegrating

Pakistan Disintegrating

By Ed Koch - April 28, 2009

Pakistan, a nuclear nation, is in danger of falling to the Taliban. The Pakistani army, which the world has relied on to prevent the Taliban from taking over the northwest frontier tribal areas, is collapsing. The Taliban, by agreement with the army, has already moved into the Swat Valley and recently partially occupied the adjacent Buner area which is 60 miles from the Pakistan capital of Islamabad.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated on December 27, 2007, is weak and ineffective. He and his government depend on the Pakistani army to keep the country under control and most importantly, to secure the country's nuclear arsenal from the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The world worries that terrorists will steal, buy or otherwise come into possession of nuclear weapons. When President Pervez Musharraf, the former general and dictator, was the head of Pakistan's military-run government, the world breathed easier. He lost power when the army command deserted him and democratic elections produced the new Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who would be assassinated and followed into national office by her husband.

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan was highlighted in a New York Times article on April 26, 2009, which reported the following, "Initially, Buner was a hard place for the Taliban to crack. When they attacked a police station in the valley district last year, the resistance was fearless. Local people picked up rifles, pistols and dagger, hunted down the militants and killed six of them. But it was not to last. In short order this past week, the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The militants flooded in by the hundreds, startling Pakistani and American officials with the speed of their advance.Today the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone, brushed away by the realization that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighboring Swat further demoralized people in Buner. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military had abandoned the effort. The Taliban was emboldened by the deal: it called for the institution of Shariah, the strict legal code of Islam based on the Koran, throughout Maladand Agency, which includes Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat."

The situation in Pakistan is being closely watched, most especially by the United States, Russia, India and China. Russia, India and China border Pakistan, and fear that the instability there will threaten their own countries. The U.S., for its part, is in danger of al-Qaeda getting the nuclear bomb and attempting to trump their 9/11 success by blowing up an American city.

Fears about Pakistan's disintegration are very real. India has fought three wars with Pakistan. The November 27, 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India's economic center, was, according to the Indian government, organized by the Pakistani security agency - Pakistan's C.I.A. - known as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. One has to assume that India knows more about Pakistan and its disintegration into a state incapable of dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist forces now embedded into its northwest frontier and on the march. We should be guided by their advice.

Now is the time for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call a meeting with her Russian, Indian and Chinese counterparts and seek a common sense solution using every weapon in their joint arsenals, economic, diplomatic and military, to save Pakistan from the Taliban and the ultimate fragmentation and destruction of that country.

We also should immediately revive our anti-ballistic missile defense program, popularly referred to as "Star Wars," begun by President Ronald Reagan and continued to date, but I believe downgraded by the Obama administration. Originally, that program was sold as a means to deal with an errant missile fired by a terrorist organization. Now, we are facing the collapse of the Pakistani government, possibly to be taken over by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who would be in control, not of a single errant missile, but an inventory of dozens of missiles.

I was alarmed when President Obama conveyed that he no longer wanted to use the phrase, "war on terror." The President's apparent offer to negotiate with moderate Taliban members may have signaled a weakness in our position on terror. Well, what then shall we call the existential threat that we, our allies and others face today from terrorists supported by Pakistan and North Korea? Just because we don't call it a "war on terror" any more doesn't mean that terrorists have stopped waging war on us.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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