difficult to evaluate the longer-term effects, there's a possibility that
recent developments in Pakistan may help the situation in Afghanistan. With
Pakistani Islamists focusing their attention on general-president Musharraf's
crackdown, and probably on the Bhutto-led anti-Musharraf "liberal" movement as
well, they are likely to be less willing to send men and money to Afghanistan.
Most Pakistanis are hostile to the Taliban, and Islamic radicals in general. At
the same time, the widespread disruption in much of Pakistan may impede the
movement of non-Pakistani Islamists across the border. Even if Musharraf falls,
the likelihood is that the Bhutto "coalition" would probably come to power, or
perhaps an interim military junta, either of which would continue to draw the
bulk of the Islamists' rage.
In the midst of all this, the
Taliban are going through a major change in leadership. The old leaders made
their reputations in the 1980s, fighting the Russians, or in the 1990s, as
members of the newly created Taliban movement. The new generation are less
religious, and more ruthless. These younger guys have no problem working with
the drug gangs, or in amassing personal fortunes. At the moment, there are
still plenty of old timers in play, and there has been growing hostility
between some of the old school factions, and the young hotshots. But to most
Pakistanis, as well as both Musharraf and Bhutto, the Taliban are the enemy.