Taliban Threat to Pakistan's Stability?

Swat Valley Pakistan went from tourist heaven to terrorist hell in less than two years.

CBS News Correspondent Terry McCarthy reports last February the Taliban were in control. Women were publicly flogged for daring to refuse forced marriages, or walking unaccompanied in the streets. The Taliban banned music, blew up schools and slit policemen's throats at will.

"They were beheading in this square," said Dost Mohammad, a computer school owner.

Video: Terry McCarthy Reports on Pakistan's Swat Valley

CBS News Special Report: The Road Ahead

For years the Pakistani government has allowed extremists to live along its borders, but it was only when the Taliban took over this once popular tourist valley that people suddenly started to realize the stability of their entire country was being threatened.

In May 30,000 troops retook the Valley but the Taliban's advance into Pakistani heartland was shocking - particularly because this is a country that has some 80 nuclear weapons, and has conducted successful underground tests.

"I can assure you with full assurance, there is no danger at all," said Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

But danger is everywhere in Pakistan. Obama bin Laden is thought to be hiding in the mountains, as well as Taliban leader Mullah Omar - both protected fiercely by local tribes.

A big recipient of U.S. military aid already - $2 billion for 2009 - the government says it needs even more. Specifically the drones America uses to strike at militants in these remote areas. The Pakistani military complains the drones are violating their sovereignty, and want to fly their own missions.

"Give us the drone technology," said Malik.

"Do you think the U.S. would give you drones," asked McCarthy.

"Why not," Malik asked.

"They would worry you would use it against India," said McCarthy.

"Terry, if they can give us F-16, the drone is a much simpler bird - And we can give an undertaking we are not going to use it against India," replied Malik.

But trust levels between the U.S. and Pakistan are shaky at best. If the U.S. withdrew abruptly from Afghanistan and that country plunged into civil war, the extremist threat inside Pakistan would likely escalate.

"An Afghanistan collapse will threaten the stability of this entire region - not just Pakistan, it will have a massive impact," said Samina Ahmed of International Crisis Group.

The general who commanded the assault on Swat Valley says that is his nightmare scenario.

"It's a difficult situation. It is a kind of a nightmare," said Major General Tariq Khan, Frontier Corps commander. "So, we wouldn't want that to happen, we need Afghanistan to be stable."

Americans continue to fight for that stability in Afghanistan. But increasingly Washington is asking whether stability in Pakistan is even more crucial.

More special coverage on CBSNews.com:
Marines in Afghanistan: A Day in the Life
Taliban Gaining Firepower and Confidence
Battle of Wanat - Inside the Ambush
Afghanistan, 8 Years In: How We Got Here
  • Terry McCarthy

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