This isn’t good. Here I am a year or so before I plan on walking across the Indian border into Pakistan, and I read this in the news:
Pakistani paramilitary troops rushing to protect government buildings and bridges from encroaching Taliban militants just 100 kilometres from the capital quickly came under fire today by gunmen who killed a police officer, authorities said.
To the uninitiated, this may seem like old news. Pakistan, after all, has been battling Taliban-eque militants for years. Even before the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Pakistani government had relented de facto control of vast regions along the border to local leaders.
But this is different. This isn’t one of those chaotic “tribal regions” governed by warlords and radical clerics. This is a province only a hundred kilometers away from the capital. It’s as if Cornwall, Ontario was taken over by a French seperatist army. Or if Richmond, Virginia fell to the marching Confederates. Or Northampton had fallen to invading Scots.
All of this comes, in classic fashion, a few days after the U.S. announced that it would continue sending $1.5 billion in military aid to Pakistan to help combat the militants. Clearly not all of that money is reaching the front lines. Raise your hand if this surprises you. Bueller?
All I can hope is that somehow the tables turn. But as America beefs up its presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban only have one place to go.
Who knows, perhaps when I arrive Afghanistan will be the safer option.
(The map below illustrates what I’m talking about. The purple areas are those “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” whereas the green are administered normally by the Federal government in Islamabad [the capital, highlighted in red]. Some of the areas I was quite excited to visit include Peshawar, Dir, and Chitral [highlighted in yellow]. The red province is Buner, the recently invaded region. You can see my predicament.)