“The solution is to hold a dialogue with the militants,” he told an audience at the Chatham House foreign policy thinktank in London.
“The solution is to win them onto our side, not to bomb them with airstrikes.” Otherwise, he warned: “If we continue with this military operation we are facing a catastrophe.”
The militants operating in the tribal areas did not share the beliefs of the Afghan Taliban, who wanted to create an Islamist state, he said.
“In my opinion, they are political Taliban, they are not religious Taliban."
“They will fade away as soon as the Pakistan army moves back and dialogue is held,” he added.
This is nonsense. The Pakistani state -- whether under military governments or civilian -- has held talks with the Taliban. The government has granted local Taliban and their affiliates exactly what they want on at least three different occasions (between 2006 and 2009) and withdrawn forces. Each time, the Taliban and their local affiliates have not observed the terms of the treaty, and extended their political control with intimidation and wiping out local elites (tribal maliks, politicians from the ANP, targeting the police, etc).
Let me say this again: deals have been made in the past. They have failed in the past. If you are arguing for deals in the present and future, you must have a theory of why the future will not be different from the past. Failure to acknowledge this simple fact ensures that I treat such opinions without any seriousness. In other words, when you say "they will fade away as soon as the Pakistan army moves back and dialogue is held" I know you are either lying or ignorant or stupid or all of the above. Does Imran Khan not remember how the military operations actually got underway last May? The Taliban broke the Swat peace deal, and ended up in Buner, and kickstarted a political and military response from the country.
Let me also say for the record: dialogue and negotiations are an inherent part of any war. There cannot be any other way. Military, diplomatic, political, economic, and legal mechanisms must be employed in this war, indeed in all wars. In what combination, and in what order, are tactical questions that only leaders and military commanders can answer. Occasionally, the answers to such tactical questions will be wrong. But they are worth trying in conjunction with all other methods, because war is ugly and exerts a tremendous human toll for locals, and any tactics that can minimize the loss of innocent human life have to be tried. But to assert, contrary to easily verifiable recent history, that the Taliban and their local allies will sit quietly and be satisfied with the concessions you grant them is just wrong.
Readers of this post may like a post I wrote almost two years ago, perhaps-too-provocatively titled "Why doesn't Imran Khan just shut up and go away?"