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Taliban raid: After another blow to its image, Pakistan's military regains control of base

With few trusted institutions remaining in Pakistan, such attacks on the military undermine the political stability of the country.

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Officials stand near a damaged aircraft at the PNS Mehran base, after troops ended operations against militants, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 23. Troops recaptured the Pakistani naval air force base on Monday after a 16-hour battle with as few as six Taliban gunmen who had launched their brazen attack to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Athar Khan/Reuters

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A prolonged militant attack on a naval base in the southern city of Karachi has dealt yet another blow to the image of Pakistan's military.

Militants breached the Mehran navy base in a multipronged assault Sunday. Pakistani security forces regained control of the base, but only after an 18 hour battle that gave attackers time to blow up two reconnaissance planes provided to Pakistan by the US. So far, four attackers and 10 security personnel are confirmed dead.

The Pakistani Taliban said it launched the raid to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. Though the Pakistani military had no part in killing Mr. bin Laden the US operation showed Pakistan's military to be helpless to stop the US stealth operation. Many perceived that it put Pakistan in a position of subservience to the Americans.

The naval base attack appears designed to highlight similar weaknesses in the military’s capability and remind Pakistanis of the ongoing US relationship by targeting the planes. With few trusted institutions remaining in Pakistan, such attacks on the military undermine the political stability of the country.

“The idea was to shake the state and weaken the institutions and do as much damage as possible to the military and its reputation,” says retired Pakistani Gen. Talat Masood in Islamabad. “Coming on the heels of Osama, [the military’s] image in the eyes of the Pakistani people is in question.”

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