May 1st, 2009
04:31 PM ET

Zakaria: Pakistani military finally focusing on Taliban

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/01/zakaria.pakistan/art.fareed.cnn.jpg caption="Fareed Zakaria says that for Pakistan, fighting the Taliban is more complex than fighting a cold war with India."]

Pakistan's military struck back this week at militants in Taliban-held areas.

The military operation has resulted in more than 230 militant casualties since Sunday, while the military suffered two deaths and eight injuries, according to Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman.

Pakistan has asked the United States to supply its forces with helicopters, communication equipment and night vision technology, Abbas said. The operation is part of the Pakistani army's intensified drive against the Taliban in its restive tribal regions.

The Pakistani government has been criticized for not cracking down on militants along its border with Afghanistan. As a result, the U.S. military has carried out airstrikes against militant targets in Pakistan, which have rankled relations between the two countries.

Fareed Zakaria, whose show Sunday will include an interview with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, spoke with CNN about the Pakistan insurgency.

CNN: It seems the Pakistani military is finally responding to the Taliban threat.

Fareed Zakaria: Yes. This past week, we've seen a more aggressive Pakistani military response to the Taliban, especially in the Buner district and the Swat Valley.

CNN: What has caused the shift?

Zakaria: The collapse of the peace deal that the Pakistani government made in Swat seems to have been a wake-up call. The Pakistani military has come to understand the threat the Taliban poses to the stability of their country. I say this with some hesitation because it might not be a permanent shift, but so far, so good.

CNN: But it is so obvious. Why didn't they get it before?

Zakaria: The Pakistani military has been in a state of denial. It spends most of its time, energy and resources planning for a war against India, a war on its eastern frontier. That's the war they know and are comfortable with - a big conventional deployment. And for the last three decades, by seeing India as the enemy, the military could get big budgets - they had a much larger enemy - but also know that there is actually only a small possibility of a war.

Fighting the Taliban is a much more complicated guerrilla war against a complex insurgency. First of all, you actually have to fight this war, as opposed to the cold war with India. Secondly, if you fight it, you can lose. So, they have been trying their best not to deal with this. That's what the peace deals were all about, trying to finesse their way out of the situation. But this is now the moment of truth for the Pakistani military.


Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria is a foreign affairs analyst who hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN at 1 and 5 p.m. ET Sundays.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Fareed Zakaria • Pakistan • Taliban
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