The Plank

An Afghan Safe Haven... but not for al Qaeda?

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Today's Washington Post editorial is the latest iteration of the paper's hawkish line on Afghanistan. But I think it raises a good question that hasn't been examined enough in the past couple of weeks. If the U.S. cedes swaths of nonpopulated territory to the Taliban, what does that mean for Pakistan's fight against their own domestic Taliban insurgency? Here's the Post's warning:

Adopting such a strategy would condemn American soldiers to fighting and dying without the chance of winning. But it would also cripple Pakistan's fight against the jihadists. With the pressure off in Afghanistan, Taliban forces would have a refuge from offensives by Pakistani forces. And those in the Pakistani army and intelligence services who favor striking deals or even alliances with the extremists could once again gain ascendancy. After all, if the United States gives up trying to defeat the Taliban, can it really expect that Pakistan will go on fighting?

I don't agree with that last line. But the rest does seem compelling. At a minimum, any strategy that we pursue needs to include the ability to use military power quickly and accurately along the Pakistani border.

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