Pakistan is stepping up its US-supported offensive against the Taliban in the country's lawless northwest, but military victories may be fleeting in the face of a greater challenge: winning the support of local people. In the border region near Afghanistan, the Washington Post finds that refugees fear reprisals by the Taliban if they speak out, but many also accuse the army of doing America's bidding. "The operation is a joke just to please the foreign masters," said one man.
Not a single interview subject had seen any soldiers in the hilly region, even though many described shells and bombs falling from the sky throughout the week. Most reject the Taliban's brutality and extreme interpretation of Islam—but they're unconvinced the government and military can be trusted. "If they take you as an opponent or a spy, then they will punish you, very brutally," says an out-of-work teacher. "We are silent in this whole drama. But that does not mean we are Taliban."