Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

It's Pakistan's war too

As a car-bomb attack in Peshawar tragically demonstrates, Pakistanis and the U.S. have a common enemy in Islamist extremists.

October 30, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton set out for Pakistan this week on a charm offensive, hoping to curtail anti-Americanism by speaking directly with students and journalists not simply about fighting terrorism but about economic development and other issues of common interest. Then a car bomb tore though a crowded market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, slaughtering more than 100 men, women and children, instantly drawing attention back to the conflict.

More than anything Clinton can say, a series of assaults that have taken the lives of more than 500 civilians this year should serve to convince typical Pakistanis that this is not just a U.S. war. The United States and Pakistan have a common enemy in Islamist extremists, and the Pakistani state is fighting for its survival.

Militants around the world have cynically targeted marketplaces to weaken support for governments that fail to protect their people, even though killing innocents rarely wins over public opinion in the long run. That's a point the Obama administration also should note. More than 500 civilians have died in U.S. missile strikes against the Taliban by unmanned drone aircraft, Pakistani officials say, which may partly explain why polls show that a majority of Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy.

The Peshawar bomb appears to be the work of the Pakistani Taliban, which is fighting not for its brethren in Afghanistan but to destabilize the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. Officials regard the bombing as retaliation for a 30,000-troop Pakistani military offensive in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan. Despite his many shortcomings, Zardari sounds as if he understands that he has no choice but to fight back. We hope that the often-ambivalent Pakistani army is convinced it must continue the offensive and ultimately defeat the Pakistani Taliban. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif also should speak out against the bombing and help unify the country against radicals who want to control it.

The United States is aiding Pakistan's military with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons, helicopters and surveillance equipment, and U.S. Special Forces soldiers are training Pakistani counterinsurgency troops. All of this is done under the radar, so to speak, to avoid a backlash against the United States. But while it's true that the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is shoring up the nuclear-armed Pakistani government to protect U.S. interests and those of its allies, it's also time for Pakistanis to acknowledge that it's in their interest as well to keep extremists at bay. This is Pakistan's conflict too.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|