Feature

Pakistan pushes Taliban back

Pakistan’s army dealt the Taliban a major setback, retaking Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley, and gaining ground in other Taliban-held areas.

In heavy fighting, Pakistan’s army dealt the Taliban a major setback this week, retaking Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley, and gaining ground in other Taliban-held areas. “Hopefully, this will be a decisive battle,” said Maj. Gen. Ijaz Awan. “Their deaths are vital to killing their myth.” Pakistan says it has killed more than 1,000 militants while losing 81 of its own soldiers. The fighting, taking place as close as 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad, has uprooted more than 2.5 million civilians.

U.S. counterterrorism officials said that as Pakistani troops drive the Taliban back toward al Qaida’s hideouts in the mountainous border region, it’s causing alarm in the already weakened terrorist organization. “They’ve suffered some serious losses and seem to be feeling a heightened sense of anxiety,’’ one official told The Washington Post. In a new audiotape, a man claiming to be Osama bin Laden said it was President Obama who ordered the Pakistani military campaign, and warned that the fighting had “planted new seeds of hatred and vengeance’’ toward America. “Let the American people prepare to continue harvesting what their White House leaders sow,” the message said.

The Pakistanis may have what it takes after all, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Only weeks ago, “the urgent question was whether Pakistan’s government and military had the will to resist Taliban advances.” The government had ceded the northwest region to the militants in an ill-advised “peace accord.” But then “the Taliban got greedy,” expanding from Swat into the neighboring Buner district and imposing a brutal form of sharia law. Pakistan finally said, Enough.

This battle is far from won, said The Washington Post. The army has swept through the Swat Valley before, and “each time the extremists have returned and appeared to grow stronger.” Even now, militants are “circulating among the refugees, offering aid and propaganda.” It’s crucial that the Pakistani government do a better job than the militants in aiding the displaced. Helping with that endeavor “could be the most important anti-terrorism initiative the Obama administration undertakes in the coming months.”

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