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Analysis: Fears that the Taliban are about to overrun Pakistan's seat of power seem unfounded.
Try telling that to the powers that be in Washington, however.
"I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.
Meanwhile, General David Petraeus warned that the next two weeks were critical for Pakistan. And it’s almost been a week since he said that. The clock is running down.
But how would the Taliban go from being a rag-tag guerrilla army in the mountains to rulers of the second largest Muslim country in the world? It’s a fantastically tall order.
First they would have to cross a mountain range to enter at the northern gates of Islamabad and run over the modern capital of nearly 2 million people. In the process, they would presumably encounter one of the most advanced armies in the world — and on the military’s home turf for a change.
From there, Lahore (a city of 10 million people) is a three-hour drive down an eight-lane highway that runs through some densely populated green agricultural plains — not the Taliban’s pick for a battle field.
Moreover, Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani heartland Punjab — if the province of 81 million people were a country it would be the 15th most populous in the world, just behind Germany. Even if the Punjab goes, there would be places like the southern port city of Karachi, the third largest city in the world, that could prove to be logistical nightmares for the Taliban, who have yet to control a town of more than a few hundred thousand in Pakistan.
So what will happen in the sixth largest country in the world — which shares borders with China, India and Iran, and which has a nearly 700-mile Arabian Sea coastline touching the Persian Gulf, and which only three years ago was clocking the third fastest growing economy in Asia? Will it fall out of sheer carelessness, and deliver a ready nuclear arsenal into the hands of a force whose most potent weapon to date is humans strapped with bombs?
The figures don’t suggest this.