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Why Pakistani air strikes on Taliban targets not a gamechanger (+video)

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(Read caption) A Taliban suicide bomber kills at least 13 people in a market, close to Pakistan's military headquarters, a day after one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent years.
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Testing the assumptions behind the headlines

This week’s Pakistan air force strikes against Taliban strongholds near the Afghan border were the first such strikes since 2007. Does that mean they signal a shift in strategy?

Not so fast. Monday’s bombing raids came as a surprise because the government has not ordered strikes in North Waziristan since it signed a peace accord with a Taliban faction led by a local commander from the area. 

But the latest attack doesn’t signal a full strategy shift just yet. Pakistan's government has denied that it is a full-fledged military operation. Moreover the government has long been unable to reach a consensus on the best way to deal with the Pakistan Taliban because of noisy opposition from mainstream parties and Islamist groups. This remains a stumbling block to any strategic rethink. 

A more likely explanation is that the strikes demonstrate that when Pakistan's military is hit directly, as it was over the weekend, the government and the military will sanction one-off retaliatory hits. In this case, the strikes came after the Taliban staged two attacks that killed at least 35 soldiers.  


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