One of Pakistan's most prized national assets is a marble quarry that sat shuttered by government deadlock and tribal squabbles until the Taliban took over the site by force. Now, as gleaming white stone rolls out of the quarry, the New York Times sneaks into the region to discover how the Taliban have extended their reach and solidified their operations in recent months, as the Pakistan military has pulled back.
In northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border, the Taliban have filled a vacuum left by the weak government. In the case of the marble quarry, they grabbed the resources, apportioned them to tribes for a fee, and now collect taxes on shipments that they use to bankroll terrorist activities. As one quarry worker said, "If this continues for 2 more years, they will take on America itself."