by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 28, 2009

The tragedy unfolding in the country presents a ridiculously complex challenge for the Obama Administration; one that can’t be solved with any policy silver bullets. As if the politics of the country were not bedeviling enough, violence in Pakistan has skyrocketed to tremendous levels:

A car bomb tore through a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 91 people as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the country and pledged American support for its campaign against Islamist militants.

More than 200 people were wounded in the blast in the main northwestern city of Peshawar, the deadliest in a surge of attacks this month. The government blamed militants seeking to avenge an army offensive launched this month against al-Qaida and Taliban in their stronghold close to the Afghan border.

The bomb destroyed much of a market selling bangles, dresses and toys that was popular with women and children.

It collapsed buildings, including a mosque, and set shops on fire in an old part of the city crisscrossed with narrow alleys and clogged with stalls. Wounded people sat amid burning debris and body parts as a huge plume of gray smoke rose above the city.

Crying for help, men grabbed at the wreckage, trying to pull out survivors trapped beneath. One two-story building collapsed as firefighters doused it with water, triggering more panic.

The Administration needs to augment its military cooperation with the Pakistani government as fast as possible, including the heightened use of Predator drones if necessary in order to kill more terrorists before they are allowed to wreak havoc upon the daily lives of Pakistanis. Especially pressing is the need for a successful anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan, the replication of a Task Force ODIN-like project in Pakistan that will help cut down on the use of IEDs, and an effort to ensure that the Swat Valley is never again used as a base for Taliban incursions into the rest of the country. While we are at it, we may as well note that Islamabad is no longer safe from Taliban attacks, and the capital must be secured.

All of this will require–alas–a continued American presence in the area. That may be tough to bear, but it will be necessary to preserve Pakistan as an ally, and preserve American national security interests. And since what happens in Afghanistan will inevitably affect Pakistan, we cannot abandon our responsibilities in that country either, despite the Obama Administration’s clear desire to find a way out of Afghanistan.

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