Taliban militants, having already consolidated their hold on Pakistan's western tribal belt and the Swat Valley, have now expanded, in the face of little resistance, to stake claims in regions 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the government of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari "is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists" and that the situation there "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world." Zardari, in his scheduled May visit to Washington, is expected to seek U.S. assistance in implementing an effective counter-insurgency strategy.
Can Zardari's government implement an effective counter-insurgency strategy? If so, what elements should it include, and what assistance should the United States provide? If, on the other hand, it is too late for the government's counter-insurgency work -- if you think Zardari has already been compromised by the extremists -- what options does the United States have? Are the disparate militant groups that are loosely united under the Taliban umbrella really capable of formulating and executing a coherent and ambitious strategy to seize power? If Pakistan's civilian government is collapsing into a failed state, what contingency plans should the U.S. develop with regard to Pakistan's military; its nuclear weapons; its extremists; and the humanitarian nightmare that unfolds in a failed state?
-- James Kitfield, NationalJournal.com