June 18th, 2009
04:06 PM ET

Why the fight in Pakistan is different now

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/06/16/pakistan.taliban.robertson/art.pakistan.robertson.jpg caption="Authorities beefed up security of sensitive locations in Punjab province after a suicide attack."]

Program Note: Watch Nic Robertson report on his trip to Pakistan and the growing refugee crisis on AC 360º 10 P.M. ET.

Nic Robertson
CNN Senior International Correspondent

Every time I come to Pakistan these days I see more security.

This time is no exception. On the road from the airport to my hotel I counted nearly a dozen police checkpoints. Two years ago, there were none.

Some police run thorough checks, look inside the trunk, under the hood, peer inside the back of the car, even open the window and ask if I'm OK - apparently concerned I might be an unwilling passenger, a kidnap victim being taken away. Other police posts are lax, waving traffic through with nothing more than a cursory glance.

It would be foolish to think these are an effective defense against a determined bomber. Indeed, the traffic jams caused by some stop and searches are themselves a target for attackers who seem as willing to murder civilians as they are soldiers, policemen and politicians.

The reality is, a simple knowledge of the back streets is enough to bypass most police barricades. And so it is for the wider military offensive. So vast are the areas the Taliban influence that pinning them down and boxing them in is nearly impossible.

The Taliban and their supporters have become so entrenched in the Pashtu speaking lands bordering Afghanistan and wrapping northwards around the capital Islamabad that no single or even multi-pronged military offensive is going to stop them quickly.

So it is no surprise to come back after an absence of about seven weeks to discover the Taliban have organized themselves in the wake of the government crackdown against their expansionist operations in Swat.

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Filed under: Global 360° • Keeping Them Honest • Nic Robertson • Pakistan
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