Grunnen til at Taliban trakk seg tilbake fra Buner sist fredag, var at USA sendte en klar beskjed til Islamabad: Enten stanser dere Taliban, ellers gjør vi det.

AMERICA made clear last week that it would attack Taliban forces in their Swat valley stronghold unless the Pakistan government stopped the militants’ advance towards Islamabad.

A senior Pakistani official said the Obama administration intervened after Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 60 miles from the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban’s inroads raised international concern, particularly in Washington, where officials feared that the nuclear-armed country, which is pivotal to the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda, was rapidly succumbing to Islamist extremists.

«The implicit threat – if you don’t do it, we may have to – was always there,» said the Pakistani official. He said that under American pressure, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency told the Taliban to withdraw from Buner on Friday.

Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen og David Petraeus uttalte seg alle meget kontant om trusselen mot Pakistan sist uke.

But it was from Swat last week that their fighters overran Buner with about 500 well-armed men under a hardline commander, Maulvi Khalil.

As in Swat, once his forces had established themselves, Khalil began to impose the movement’s repressive rules on what had once been a peaceful valley. He ordered girls over seven to wear veils and directed men to keep their women inside and to grow beards. He banned music. In several villages the Taliban were snatching mobile phones on the pretext that they had musical ring tones or photos of women on them.

The Taliban stole livestock, took vehicles belonging to government officials and ransacked the offices of some local nongovernment organisations. In a phone call, Khalil denied the Taliban were terrorists. He said: «We’ve raised the arms to spread the message of Allah. This is the responsibility of each and every Muslim.» But residents fear it is just a matter of time before their daughters are forced to marry Taliban commanders, a process that has begun already in Swat, along with public floggings.

On Friday, in a much publicised agreement with the government, Khalil agreed to withdraw. Local residents said the withdrawal was incomplete. He had left men behind to supplement local armed Taliban groups and newly recruited sympathisers.

«There is a collective holding of breath,» said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia director, from Islamabad. «The Taliban edicts are still in force and the dismantling of the civilian infrastructure is still very much in effect, so a lot of doctors, midwives, civil servants have left and people are hunkering down because they fear an army operation.»

‘Stop the Taliban now – or we will’

The US got tough with Pakistan as terrorists moved to within 60 miles of the capital

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