Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are heating up as American forces apparently inadvertently killed some eleven Pakistani soldiers along the shared border of Pakistan and Afghanistan:
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened on Sunday to send soldiers into Pakistan to fight militant groups operating in the border areas to attack Afghanistan. His comments, made at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, are likely to worsen tensions between the countries, just days after American forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on the border while pursuing militants.
“If these people in Pakistan give themselves the right to come and fight in Afghanistan, as was continuing for the last 30 years, so Afghanistan has the right to cross the border and destroy terrorist nests, spying, extremism and killing, in order to defend itself, its schools, its peoples and its life,” Mr. Karzai said.
As Stephen Pampinella points out, while Iraq is marginally improving (however slowly) Afghanistan is toiling and seems to have been essentially placed on both the media and political back burner.
Pakistan moves away from both the reign and policies of Pervez Musharraf, who is now struggling to cling to a largely symbolic position of leadership, and consequently away from the perceived "puppetmastery" (and leveraged influence) of American financial largess. The result has been a softened approach toward the unruly and tribal borderlands that Waziristan and the North-West Frontier entail and the Taliban increasingly thrive. As pressure from Pakistan's military wanes and the Taliban is relieved of one effective front to fight on (or operate against; the Taliban effort eastward has been much less Fabian much more cellular and nebulous) they are, obviously, able to push more resources west into Afghanistan.
Karzai's rhetoric is likely driven as much by frustration of the entire ordeal as it is by the strategic Catch-22 presented to both coalition and Afghan forces (an aside: Karzai was a major player in the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war; not exactly a novice when it comes to strategy) in terms of bringing the battle to the body of the beast which lies not in Afghanistan but those mountainous and forbidding lands that lie along the border and within Pakistan. A classic damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
In terms of American and NATO concerns what needs to be gleaned is not so much the political stability of Pakistan but how the military, the backbone of Pakistan's stability, would whether a foreign incursion. The dichotomy here is that while Pakistan seems to be willing to, both historically and currently, resign it's hinterlands to the non-sovereign whims of tribal control it's hellbent both politically and popularly on disallowing any foreign military presence in otherwise essentially forsaken territory.
And yet I (and I'm no accomplished strategist, but...) remain convinced that the only road to victory in Afghanistan leads into Pakistan, else we spend years and countless blood and treasure merely lopping off endless Hydra heads only to have them grow back again. Of course putting American soldiers (I very much doubt our NATO allies would be willing to engage such an operation) into Pakistan is a vast gamble that assumes a nuclear armed state won't subsequently dissolve into chaos and that the Pakistani military will have both the resolve and ability to subsequently maintain state cohesion and a semblance of stability and join the American forces on the battlefield while political hellfire rains down in Islamabad.
That's one hell of a gamble and one which I doubt neither the Presidential candidates nor the current President will take on soon preferring instead the politically galvanized Iraq and the lark of scrambling to resurrect a failed legacy in challenging Iran. Reality meets the soft world of political sustainability. Sad. The efforts in Afghanistan seem to maintain a rather bleak future.
(Map via Worldpress.org)