Fragility in Pakistan....
A good overview of the current situation...
The challenge in Pakistan is eerily similar to what the Carter administration faced with Iran: How to encourage the military to take decisive action against a Muslim insurgency without destroying the country's nascent democracy. And there's a deeper psychological factor, too: How to exercise U.S. power effectively without triggering a backlash from a proud and prickly Muslim population that is scarred by what it sees as a history of American meddling.
"My experience is that knocking them hard (the Pakistani government and military) isn't going to work," said Mullen. "The harder we push, the further away they get." For the crackdown on the Taliban to be successful, he said, "It has to be their will, not ours."
What encourages U.S. officials is that recent events have been a wake-up call for a Pakistani elite in denial about the Taliban threat. One top civilian official said he was less worried now than three weeks ago, because the military and civilian leaders in Islamabad have realized the danger they face. The Pakistani military has begun an effort to push back the Taliban, albeit with mixed results. The Taliban responded fiercely to an assault Tuesday in Buner and seized three police stations, kidnapping dozens of police and paramilitary troops.
"My biggest concern is whether they (the Pakistani government) will sustain it," Mullen said. He has told his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, that "we are prepared to assist whenever they want." During his recent visit, Mullen toured two Pakistani counterinsurgency training camps and came away impressed.
Mullen said he hopes the Pakistanis will adopt a classic three-part counterinsurgency strategy -- clearing areas of Taliban control, holding those areas with enough troops so that the local population feels secure, and then building through economic development, with U.S. help.
Politically, the U.S. is looking increasingly to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Muslim League dominates the crucial Punjab region. Officials note that 60 percent of the Pakistani population lives in Punjab, and that Sharif has a popularity rating over 80 percent there.
President Asif Ali Zardari is far weaker, politically, and that worries the administration. He'll visit Washington this week to discuss the crisis with Obama.