When do we call it a civil war?

Starting three years ago, which was roughly when al Qaeda suicide-bombed the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a wave of sectarian violence erupted in Iraq. From February 2006 through August 2007, the violence was horrific: al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents attacked Shiite and Kurdish targets, and Shiite paramilitants went on forays to slay Sunni military-age males. Coalition forces were hit with IEDs and ambushes. The intent of al Qaeda was to foment a civil war, and they almost got one. Democrats (and a few Republicans) were quick to proclaim that the Iraq had devolved into a civil war. Jack Murtha declared that Iraq was in that state even before the Golden Mosque bombing took place:

“Our troops are the target,” Murtha told the newspaper. “We’re not fighting terrorism in Iraq. We’re fighting a civil war in Iraq. We’ve got to give them an incentive. We fought our Civil War. Let them fight their civil war.”

Barack Obama believed that Iraq was in a civil war, which I’m sure helped provide him the rationale for his cut-and-run Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007:

“We’re not going to baby sit a civil war,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told NBC’s “Today” Show Thursday. He said the Democratic-controlled Congress would not undercut troops already in Iraq but would explore ways to restrict the president from expanding the mission.

Irish dacha owner Chris Dodd:

Again, this is a civil war going on in Iraq. This is not the United States versus Al Qaida. It’s Shia versus Sunnis tearing each other apart. It’s gone on for centuries, but particularly here right now. The United States is being asked to, in a sense, referee a civil war.

Uber-partisan Harry Reid:

The Nevada Democrat said he has been “somewhat gingerly approaching this…. No longer. There is a civil war going on in Iraq. In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed.

Nancy Pelosi:

The American people reject the President’s call for an ‘enduring relationship’ with Iraq that is based on leaving our troops in the middle of a deadly civil war for at least 10 years.

So the question I have is, how many people have to die before we say that Pakistan is in a civil war? The Taliban don’t appear satisified with the control of some districts in the frontier provinces. Rather, they look more Islamist supremacists. A recap:

  • This Frontline video shows in detail the violence and intimidation the Taliban use to impose their fundamentalist views on the populace.
  • After an 18-month long battle, the Pakistani government gave up the Swat Valley to the Taliban. Now the Switzerland of the Far East is moving in the direction of a religious gulag, and it is proving to be a base for continued expansion.

    Since the new peace deal was made, the militants are beginning to push into neighboring areas. Last week they overpowered a village militia in the adjacent Buner district. The attack was a violation of the peace accord. But the Taliban faction that controls Swat says it has no intention of withdrawing.

  • The Taliban is working its way into Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
  • The Taliban are moving on Mardan, a district in the Northwest Frontier Province.

    Attacks such as these preceded the Taliban takeover of Tank, Bannu, Hangu, Lakki Marwat, Swat, Shangla, Arakzai, and Bajaur. Mardan was also one of the districts chosen by the Swat Taliban to parade through after its near-effortless takeover of Buner, a district just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad


    The Taliban are nearing their takeover of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Pakistani government recently ceded the northern third of the province to the Taliban after agreeing to implement sharia in a large region known as the Malakand Division. The seven western tribal agencies and most of the bordering districts are under Taliban control or under strong Taliban influence.

  • The Pakistani military abandoned South Waziristan to the Taliban last August. More from Bill Roggio:

    The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, and Hangu.

    Negotiations are underway in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

    The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

This would be less of a problem if the people actually wanted Islamist subjugation. But this isn’t the case. This post from Hilzoy dates back to November 2007, but back then only 5% of the people voted for the Islamist political party. The rest of the parties are broadly secular.