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Experts: Military Strikes Against Taliban Not End to Peace Talks

Experts: Military Strikes Against Taliban Not End to Peace Talks
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The Pakistani government is taking a more proactive attitude toward Islamist militants after peace talks between the two sides failed to produce any meaningful results.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, has been fighting against the government of Pakistan since 2007. Its goal, in attacking Pakistani law enforcement personnel and civilians, is to disrupt Pakistan’s alliance with the United States in the war against terrorism. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has held peace talks with the TTP in recent months, but there has been no breakthrough - and last week the Pakistani military conducted a major operation in North Wazirstan and killed what it termed close to 60 terrorists.

Experts like Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation see it as a proactive approach against the militants.

"I think what the government of Pakistan is doing is pursuing a simultaneous talk and fight strategy. So, I would see this recent offensive in North Wazirstan as part of that overall strategy," said Curtis.

But Moeed Yusuf, with Washington’s U.S. Institute of Peace, says it will take a long time to fight this kind of insurgency.

"What this is going to do is to strike the center of gravity of a number of groups. So, it is going to strike their physical presence in a way that they will have to be on the run. But over time they will regroup, reconvene, find other places and this process will continue," said Yusuf.

In Pakistan, opinion on the talks with the TTP has been divided. While some political parties still want to hold peace talks, others are not hopeful about the prospects of success. Yusef says it's not clear though whether the government has enough leverage to achieve any results.

"Ideally for the state of Pakistan, talks would continue with the people who want to talk or with the people who feel that they are defeated and will come and negotiate on the state’s terms. I don’t think the state has got the upper hand to that point yet," he said.

But Lisa Curtis says the Pakistani government can hold talks from the position of strength.

"I think the fact that the military has shown that it is willing to strike against the militants when it sees that it is the best option to move forward. I think the fact that they have demonstrated that will help Pakistan get the leverage in the talks with the TTP," she said.

Many experts believe that if the recent strikes against the Pakistan Taliban manage to decapitate the TTP’s strength, then the peace talks can bear some positive results.