The Taliban have dominated Swat since February, when the government agreed to establish Islamic courts in exchange for a cease-fire, and last month they sent forces into neighboring Buner, where the government capitulated without a fight.
After more than a week of heavy public pressure from the Obama administration, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke Monday night that the army would retake the territory.
"The army is going back in as we speak," Holbrooke quoted him as saying on the eve of Zardari's meeting Wednesday with President Barack Obama in Washington.
Despite Zardari's assurance, however, there was no sign Tuesday that a major army operation had begun in Swat, and residents reported that Taliban had mined the roads into Mingora to block any army offensive.
It is not clear at all that the Pakistani army is capable of unseating Taliban fighters in Swat, given their record of failures against the militants. The results of a failed campaign would be...well, catastrophic.