Encouraging sign in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD, June 9 (Reuters) - The Pakistani army came to the help of a pro-government militia fighting Taliban in a northwestern district on Tuesday as the United States said Pakistan was gaining in its offensive against the militants.

The Pakistani military launched a major offensive in the former tourist valley of Swat and neighbouring districts northwest of the capital in late April after Taliban militants took advantage of a peace pact to conquer new ground.

In retaliation, the Taliban have stepped up bomb attacks and are suspected of being behind a suicide blast at a mosque in the Upper Dir region, near Swat, that killed about 40 people on Friday.

Outraged by the attack, villagers formed a militia, known as a lashkar, of about 500 men and began fighting the militants at the weekend in a bid to force them out of their area.

A few weeks ago the Taliban were skillfully exploiting class resentment in their march towards Islamabad--a really alarming dynamic. (One regional expert told me recently that land reform is the massively unsexy but massively important issue no one discusses when it comes to Pakistan, swaths of which have a semi-feudal nature.) But one gets the sense that the insurgents have overreached and the government has the momentum. Knock on wood.

--Michael Crowley