Oct 7, 2009 2:26 pm


Those arguing on the Sunday round tables that leaving Afghanistan has become acceptable because Pakistan is doing better, have just received a major set back with the bombing of the UN quarters in Islamabad. For it ended a bombing lull in major attacks. What caused the lull? It may have been the successful targeted killing of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud or it may have been Ramadan. Either way, it demonstrates that drones are useful but do not secure victory especially when the staying power of the enemy is in question.

Indeed, the current public debate on Afghanistan has probably helped convince local waverers that victory in the subcontinent belongs to America's enemies. For as Dan Twining correctly argues and as Obama used to assert, the stakes in Afghanistan go beyond Afghanistan:

A recent trip to Islamabad and Lahore revealed to me that most Pakistani elites -- including the small minority that could credibly be described as sympathetic to Western goals in Afghanistan -- already believe that the game is up: the will of the transatlantic allies is broken, Obama doesn't have the courage or vision to see America's mission in Afghanistan through to victory, and the U.S. is well along the road to walking away from Afghanistan as it did after 1989. This widespread Pakistani belief has encouraged behavior deeply inimical to Washington's regional aims, with the effect that the American debate over whether Afghanistan is worth it is inspiring Pakistani actions that will make success all the harder to achieve.

After all, why shouldn't the Pakistani security services continue to invest in their friendly relations with the Taliban if Mullah Omar and company soon will take power in Afghanistan's Pashtun heartland? Why should the Pakistani military take on the militant groups that regularly launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan when the NATO targets of those attacks will soon slink away in defeat? Why should the Pakistani government get serious about wrapping up the Quetta Shura when the Afghan Taliban appears to be ascendant in the face of Western weakness?

Why should Pakistan's intelligence service break its ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the world's most potent terrorist groups, when it forms such a useful instrument with which to bleed U.S. ally India? And why should Pakistani civilian and military leaders overtly cooperate with the United States when it appears such a weak and unreliable ally of the Afghan people -- incapable, despite its singular wealth and resources, of defeating a 25,000-man insurgency in one of the poorest countries on Earth?

The answers my friends are blowing in the wind . . .

Robert Kaplan reluctatly agrees. We must fight on though the real winner is bound to be China.

Oh, yes, just like in Iraq, the rats are quick to leave the ship: UN closes all offices in Pakistan after blast

Pakistan Taliban head cracks jokes, vows vengeance "He also described his group's relationship to al-Qaida as one of"love and affection.""

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