Saturday, October 17, 2009

BBC fails to understand Pakistan's war on the Taliban

Pakistan has launched its long awaited offensive against the Taliban in the Mehsud areas of South Waziristan. This follows a series of vicious terrorist atrocities against civilians in Pakistani cities and an assault on the Pakistani army headquarters. Terrorism is always depressing, that human beings use violence not just for political ends, but where the body count of the innocent is the primary means to their ends. War is hell, as a wise soldier once said, but the objective in most wars is to take territory or to destroy military capability or both. Terrorism seeks to kill as many of the innocent as possible until the survivors are so sickened they give into whatever the terrorist agenda happens to be.

As a tactic it has an almost universal history of failure, but that doesn't stop one bunch of sociopaths after another giving it a try. It is also much misunderstood, especially it seems by the sort of half-wits who report on BBC News. The thing is this: because terrorists are very unconstrained in their choice of targets, because you can kill civilians almost anywhere, they can made out as much more powerful then they actually are. Just because terrorists can let of a bomb in a market does not mean that they have any great ability or control. How hard is it to set off a bomb next to a fruit stall after all? Yet to hear the BBC this was direct evidence of the imminent collapse of the Pakistani state. Then after a bomb was let off it Mingora in the Swat valley, which was recently retaken from the Taliban, the breathless BBC reporter stated that there were so many Pakistani troops there that there might not be enough for the enough left for the Waziristan assault? Excuse me? The Pakistani army has 700,000 men with another half million in reserve. For Waziristan the nature of the terrain means that numbers are much less important than mobility and logistics anyway. Where do they find these reporters? Have they never heard of fact-checking before they shoot their mouths off on air.

In fact, the only vaguely impressive thing that the Taliban have done is the attack on the army headquarters, but even here half of their assault was shot to bits at the gate and the rest were killed or captured by special forces after a short siege, which speaks well of the Pakistani army given that the attackers had the element of surprise. The fact is that the Pakistanis are at war with the Taliban, and wars have battles and losses on both sides. Ever since the Pakistani government stopped being a military dictatorship and the civilian politicians got serious about fighting their internal enemy then the tide of success has really only had one direction, and it hasn't favoured the terrorists. It would be nice if the BBC employed people who could place terrorists attacks in context, instead of spouting the line that every suicide bomber hitting a bus queue means a stunning reverse for the forces of civilisation.

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