We’ve given Pakistan $12 billion to fight Islamic extremists, said USA Today in an editorial, and Pakistan has repaid us by letting the Taliban control the strategically situated Swat Valley. Pakistan’s military has already let a Taliban “reign of terror”—complete with police beheadings and the torching of girls’ schools—ravage the “former tourist mecca.” Now it has formalized its "appeasement,” letting the Taliban impose sharia law there in return for a cease-fire.
It looks bad to let the Taliban impose sharia in the Swat, said Tom Ricks in Foreign Policy, but it “might be a smart move” on Pakistan’s part. If Pakistan uses the truce to build up its troops in the area, it can “pick up the ball when the Taliban has sufficiently alienated” the local population. “Risky? Sure.” But better than nothing.
It’s dangerous to assume that the Pakistani military will be “willing or able to regain lost ground after the truce,” said The Times of India in an editorial. “Jihadi elements permeate” the military and intelligence service, and they still view the Taliban as a manipulable asset. Pakistan is approaching failed-state status, and the world will have to step in before the Taliban gets control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
If Pakistan becomes the new central front in the war on “Islamist terrorists,” said Fred Kaplan in Slate, where does that leave the U.S. war in Afghanistan? President Obama just announced he's sending 17,000 more U.S. troops there, but Afghanistan will be just a “sideshow” if “Pakistan falls apart.” Still, it’s unlikely that the Swat deal will ever take force. Stay tuned.