After failing to remove a powerful Taliban presence in Swat during 18 months of on and off again fighting with the military, the provincial government chose to make a peace deal with the Taliban. Just this week Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari signed the peace deal in the Swat Valley, allowing for the imposition of Islamic law, or sharia.
Much of the government has argued the deal will bring peace to a restive province, but critics argue it is a capitulation to the Taliban at the point of a gun and would allow the Taliban to grow stronger in the surrounding areas.
Indeed, late last week Taliban from Swat entered Buner, a formerly peaceful district to the South where residents had been able successfully withstand militant attempts to infiltrate. But this time, residents were unable to resist.
"Pakistan itself is threatened by this insurgency and the insurgency is slowly moving into the main parts of Pakistan," Kerry said. He called the peace deal a "concern" and acknowledged that while the paramilitary frontier corps had made great strides at combating the militancy, Pakistan still needed to acknowledge the extent of the threat the Taliban posed.
"The urgency is greater than the response we've seen thus far," Kerry said.
In Buner, the Taliban entered the area driving expensive vehicles and appearing to carry weapons not usually available for sale in the marketplace. They proved too much for a relatively ragtag village fighting force.
"How can you fight the military?," one resident asked an ABC News reporter, implicitly accusing the Pakistani army of supporting the militants.
It is a widespread belief in the Northwest that the Pakistani army and its powerful spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, is maintaining links to the Taliban and Punjabi militant groups it helped create to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The military denies that, and recently the head of the ISI refused a one-on-one meeting with Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke after the latter had accused the ISI of active links with the Taliban.
Kerry said he was convinced the ISI and Army leadership were opposed to harboring militants groups. But, he admitted, "Is it possible that people who originally had ties to the Taliban who may no longer even be affiliated with the agency… have some ongoing connection? That's possible, sure."
Kerry's vision for the tribal areas focuses on reinforcing a proud Pashtun culture on both sides of the border that has been decimated by the Taliban and, to a lesser extent, policies enacted under President Pervez Musharraf.
But he also believes in a covert campaign that has pounded the tribal areas with some 40 missile attacks launched by unmanned aerial drones operated by the CIA. Those attacks have, largely, inspired anti-Americanism across the country.