The NYT Magazine has a feature by Dexter Filkins on the continuing drama, or tragedy for that matter, along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Filkins has solid experience in the region and his piece, Right on the Edge, is definitely worthwhile reading. I don’t have time to summarize all of the relevant highlights, but feel compelled to share my favorite nugget:
So here was Namdar — Taliban chieftain, enforcer of Islamic law, usurper of the Pakistani government and trainer and facilitator of suicide bombers in Afghanistan — sitting at home, not three miles from Peshawar, untouched by the Pakistani military operation that was supposedly unfolding around us.
What’s going on? I asked the warlord. Why aren’t they coming for you?
“I cannot lie to you,” Namdar said, smiling at last. “The army comes in, and they fire at empty buildings. It is a drama — it is just to entertain.”
Entertain whom? I asked.
“America,” he said.
My only real critique regards his exploration of why the Pakistani authorities might be deliberately acting feckless. Filkins explores the generally accepted overlapping rationales: continued desire for strategic depth in Afghanistan, willingness to provide safe haven and allow cross-border raids in exchange for the militants’ agreement to stop attacking the Pakistani homeland, and good old-fashioned anti-American sentiment. However, he then goes on to explore idea that this is all an elaborate ruse by the Pakistani authorities who are sustaining in the Taliban in order to continue collecting U.S. aid. I’m not suggesting that U.S. dollars don’t play a role, but it seemed Filkins played that one explanation up a bit much.
In any event, that’s a relatively minor quibble with what is, on balance, a pretty solid piece of reporting.