Government Assaults on Taliban Meet Strong Resistance
As violence increased in Afghanistan, with militants pouring into the country from Pakistan, President Obama stepped up the pressure on Zardari to take military action against the Taliban and al Qaeda. At the same time, Pakistanis had been expressing deep frustration over the burgeoning authority the Taliban had begun to display throughout the country. The insurgency's growing strength was highlighted in April, when it took control of Buner, a district only 70 miles outside the capital, Islamabad.
Zardari, perhaps wary of losing U.S. support-both financial and political-and sensing popular unrest at home, launched offensives against Taliban insurgents. The first occurred in May in the Swat Valley. At least 22,000 Pakistani troops were sent to fight the insurgency.
The U.S. and Pakistan scored an important victory over the Taliban with the assassination of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, in August in South Waziristan. He died in a C.I.A. drone strike. Mehsud was blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and dozens of other suicide bombings. Hakimullah Mehsud assumed the leadership role.
The Supreme Court ruled in July 2009 that Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency was unconstitutional. Zardari followed the ruling with an order to suspend the judges who were appointed during the state of emergency.
In late October, the military targeted the Taliban in the tribal area of South Waziristan. The incursion met strong resistance and forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. The Taliban retaliated with a series of terrorist attacks that targeted government buildings and crowded areas, killing hundreds of people and proving that the government was in for a protracted battle against fierce and stubborn opponent. The government, however, dealt several blows to the Taliban's leadership in early 2010, capturing the group's deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in January, and then two regional governors—Mullah Abdul Salam of Kunduz and Mullah Mir Mohammed of Baghlan—in February.
Zardari turned over control of the Pakistan's nuclear weapons to Prime Minister Gilani in November 2009. The move, an apparent concession to Zardari's critics, will not have much effect of the oversight of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. The president showed further vulnerability in December when the Supreme Court ruled that the amnesty granted to him and others by the former president Musharraf was unconstitutional. Zardari again bowed to pressure in April 2010 when he introduced a proposal for consitutional reform that included provisions that would diminish the role of the presidency.
The whistle-blower website WikiLeaks released 92,000 classified U.S. military documents in July 2010 that reinforced the widely held perception that the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, has been playing both sides in the war against the Taliban and militant groups, clandestinely supporting the insurgents in their fight against allied troops in Afghanistan while also cooperating with the U.S.