Pakistan created and nurtured the Taliban in the 1990s when American military support for Pakistan vanished after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union. In order to ward off Indian and Iranian influence in Afghanistan, and to have a militia ready to do battle with India in Kashmir, Pakistan helped foster the rise of the Taliban. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States demanded that Pakistan switch sides. Pakistan, under the leadership of Pervez Pervez Musharraf, ostensibly did. But Musharraf never ceased to hedge his bets. The Taliban continued to receive support through the ISI even as Pakistan fought battles with the Pakistani Taliban's rising influence in the country's Tribal Areas and in Waziristan.
And Pakistan never ceased to pay the price of its double-dealing. Examples include the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 and the Taliban's bombing campaign against civilian and military targets in 2009.
By the time Barack Obama became president in 2009, Pakistan was the new president's biggest foreign policy challenge. The reason: Pakistan is a nuclear power, the Pakistani Taliban makes no secret of its desire to overthrow the Pakistani government, and al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, is believed to be holed up in the mountains of Waziristan. Pakistan's stability is a daily roll of the dice, especially under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari, a man never known for his political skills.
The Obama administration opted for a far more aggressive strategy against the Pakistani Taliban than George W. Bush's--attacking Taliban and suspected al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan some 40 times by unmanned Predator strikes in 2009 alone, and promising more in 2010. The strategy was risky, as it caused the death of hundreds of civilians and a backlash against the United States among Pakistanis.
- Why Pakistan Is Obama's Biggest Challenge in the Middle East
- Profile: Asif Ali Zardari
- Profile: Pervez Musharraf
- Predators Among Them: Why Al-Qaeda Is Lashing Out
- Operation Enduring Folly: US Kills 60 More in Pakistan Air Strike
- What Is Pakistan's ISI?
- Pakistan: Back-story of the Taliban's Latest Attacks