Massacre reflects need for resolve against extremists

If the Pakistani Taliban thinks Tuesday’s massacre of schoolchildren will promote their cause in any way, they are surely as deluded as they are depraved.

The heinous attack that killed at least 141, most of them students, at a military-run school in Peshawar is likely to harden ordinary Pakistanis’ attitude toward the militant group that has terrorized the people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan for years.

This is the group that has attacked girls like Malala Yousafzai who are seeking an education and killed health workers trying to vaccinate children against deadly diseases such as polio. It has launched thousands of terrorist attacks — including against more than 1,000 schools in the last five year — and is allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida.

Spokesmen say this latest attack was retaliation for the military’s ongoing campaign against Taliban strongholds along Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan. The fact that these extremists choose to strike against schools and defenseless children shows their true cowardly nature.

The Pakistani government has had a mixed record in confronting militant Islamic groups, preferring to focus more on its enmity with neighboring India. But this attack appears to have strengthened its resolve against the internal threat. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif indicated that his country will step up efforts against the Taliban.

“The nation needs to get united and face terrorism,” Sharif said. “We need unflinching resolve against this plague.”

If anything positive could come out of such a horrific event, this would be it. No good purpose is served by allowing the Taliban to build strength in Pakistan, a nuclear nation. Given the senseless brutality the group has shown, one shudders to even consider the possibilities if it were to win control of the government.

It’s one thing for a “lone wolf” extremist to attack a soft target like a school (or a cafe, as in Sydney, Australia, on Monday); there’s new research that indicates most of these types of killers suffer from untreated mental illness. But it’s quite another when organized political groups such as the Taliban, the Islamic State or Boko Haram carry out atrocities with the goal of destabilizing governments or exerting control over a populace.

The United States has helped in the effort against the Taliban with controversial drone strikes. Tuesday’s attack in Peshawar shows that, in our eagerness to leave the region, we should continue to use all possible leverage to help Pakistan suppress this threat from within.