This week, Taliban forces brazenly attacked the international airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and business capital, leaving 36 people dead. Gunmen penetrated security checkpoints and shut down the airport for 14 hours.
The attack is the latest embarrassment for Pakistan’s military. The Taliban, nurtured and supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, as a hedge against India and Afghanistan has become a threat to its creator.
The ISI still allegedly supports the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, which carried out the 2011 U.S. embassy bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, and held U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive. After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and other nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, veterans of the conflict established the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks to destabilize the Pakistani state.
The Karachi attack is the latest strike in their decadelong Islamist insurgency, which seems able to attack any target at will: naval bases, army headquarters, market squares. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been pursuing reconciliation with the Pakistani Taliban, which has splintered over these talks.
But peace seems far away. The Taliban struck the airport a second time this week. Pakistan’s military launched fresh air strikes against military hideouts in the country’s Khyber region.
The military seems unwilling or unable to kill off the monster it has unwittingly created, no matter how much instability it causes in the region. The Pakistani army’s outdated fixation on India left it blind to the serious existential threat the Taliban now poses.
The latest attack may motivate it to combat the Pakistani Taliban fully, to avoid in the long run the failed-state fate of its Afghan neighbor.