Taliban? What Taliban? [Updated]

The Pakistani Taliban carried out an appalling terrorist attack on the Army school in Peshawar yesterday, murdering more than 130, mostly children, and wounding many more. Reports indicate that one teacher was burned alive in front of her class and some of the children were decapitated. It reportedly required more than eight hours for the Army to clear the school of terrorists. The Taliban has claimed responsibility–credit, in their eyes–for the attack.

This is President Obama’s statement condemning the murders:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and loved ones. By targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once again shown their depravity. We stand with the people of Pakistan, and reiterate the commitment of the United States to support the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and to promote peace and stability in the region.

Apart from its perfunctory tone, what is notable about Obama’s statement? It doesn’t mention the perpetrators of the attack, the Taliban. This seems a curious omission, both because of the scale of the attack and because it evidently was intended as retaliation against the Army for its recent campaign to suppress the Taliban in North Waziristan.

This can only be speculation, but one wonders whether the Obama administration prefers not to mention the Taliban due to our impending withdrawal from Afghanistan. Once we are gone, similar atrocities by the Taliban’s Afghan branch are likely inevitable. Perhaps the administration would rather not say anything that might lead others to suggest, when the time comes, that similar attacks on Afghan schools were the foreseeable consequence of our withdrawal. That is the only reason I can think of why President Obama would denounce the attack on the Army school in Peshawar, without denouncing those who carried it out.

UPDATE: This also may be relevant–President Obama, speaking from Afghanistan in May 2012, announcing that his administration has entered into “direct discussions with the Taliban” because “Many members of the Taliban…have indicated an interest in reconciliation.”

Obama’s negotiations with the Taliban have gone about as well as his negotiations with Iran.


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