Fighting in Afghanistan is due to intensify as more US troops arrive
Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid says 2010 looks like presenting Afghanistan and Pakistan with their most difficult set of challenges since the end of the Cold War.
People in the South Asia region will be holding their breath in the new year.
If both nations fail to achieve a modicum of political stability and success against extremism and economic growth, the world will be faced with an expansion of Islamic extremism, doubts about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and major questions about US prestige and power as it withdraws from Afghanistan.
The challenges for both countries are deeply interlinked and enormous.
Without Pakistan eliminating Taliban sanctuaries or forcing the Afghan Taliban leadership into talks with Kabul, US success in Afghanistan is unlikely
The primary task is whether both countries can work together with the Western alliance to roll back the Taliban and al-Qaeda threat they face.
That in turn rests on the success of the US and Nato's new strategy in both countries over the next 18 months as President Barack Obama has pledged to stabilise Afghanistan's political and economic institutions and start handing over Afghan security to the Afghan armed forces, starting in July 2011.
For that to happen much will depend on whether the West is able to find effective government partners in both Islamabad and Kabul.
So far the prospects are not all that hopeful.
Mr Karzai won a deeply flawed election
President Hamid Karzai has emerged as the victor after intensely controversial elections that undermined his domestic and international credibility, while the Afghan army is still far from being able to take over major security responsibilities.
There will be renewed political wrangling as the West and the Afghans have to decide whether to hold parliamentary elections in the new year.
The Afghan army is still undermanned, undertrained and has yet to be equipped with heavy weapons and an air force.
The Afghan army also suffers from 80% illiteracy and a lack of recruits from the Pashtun belt, which are essential if the army is to be effective in the Taliban-controlled southern and eastern parts of the country.
In the midst of what will certainly be a hot and possibly decisive summer of fighting in 2010 between Western forces and the Taliban, the other primary tasks of providing jobs and economic development, while building sustainable capacity within the Afghan government to serve the Afghan people, will be even more important and difficult to achieve.
The Taliban strategic plan for the summer is likely to be to avoid excessive fighting in the south and east which is being reinforced with 30,000 new American soldiers.
Instead, the Taliban will try to expand Taliban bases in the north and west of the country, where they can demoralise the forces of European Nato countries that are facing growing opposition at home about their deployment.
The militants will also stretch the incoming US troops - forcing them to douse Taliban fires across the country - while they try to create greater insecurity in Central Asia.
At the same time the Pakistan military, which now effectively controls policy towards India and Afghanistan, shows no signs of giving up on the sanctuaries that the Afghan Taliban have acquired in Pakistan.
Pakistan has been wracked by violence
Without Pakistan eliminating these sanctuaries or forcing the Afghan Taliban leadership into talks with Kabul, US success in Afghanistan is unlikely.
Pakistan itself faces a triple crisis
- acute political instability - President Asif Ali Zardari may soon be forced to resign, which could trigger long-term political unrest
- an ever-worsening economic crisis that is creating vast armies of jobless youth who are being attracted to the message of extremism
- the army's success rate in dealing with its own indigenous Taliban problem.
The key to any improvement rests on the army and the political forces coming to a mutual understanding and working relationship with each other and providing support to Western efforts in Afghanistan.
However, for the moment that appears unlikely while the army is hedging its bets with the Afghan Taliban, as it is fearful about a potential power vacuum in Afghanistan once the Americans start to leave in 2011.
Other neighbouring countries - India, Iran, Russia and the Central Asian republics - may start thinking along the same lines and prepare their own Afghan proxies to oppose the Afghan Taliban, which could result in a return to a brutal civil war similar to that of the 1990s.
Pakistan's fight against its own Taliban is going well but that is insufficient as long as the army does not move militarily or politically against the Afghan Taliban or other Punjab-based extremist groups now allied with the Taliban.
Pakistani calculations also involve India - and the failure of both nations to resume the dialogue halted after the 2008 attacks in Mumbai (Bombay).
India fears that extremist Punjabi groups could launch another Mumbai-style attack and are demanding that Pakistan break up all indigenous extremist groups that fought in Indian-administered Kashmir in the 1990s.
Islamabad is refusing to do so until Delhi resumes talks with it.
The Obama administration has so far failed to persuade India and Pakistan to resume a dialogue or settle their differences and if that remains the case in the new year, Pakistan is more than likely to continue defying US pressure to help with Afghanistan.
There is growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan despite Washington's pledge of an annual $1.5bn aid package for the next five years.
With the present lack of security in Pakistan - and the volatile mood towards the US and India that is partly being fuelled by the military - it is difficult to see how US aid can be effectively spent or how other economic investments can take place.
At present there is an enormous flight of local capital from both Afghanistan and Pakistan that has increased since the Obama plan was announced.
The recent arrests in the US and Europe of suspects linked to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region indicate that the world could face a wider extremist threat if it fails to effectively stabilise Afghanistan and help Pakistan towards a quick economic and political recovery.
Ahmed Rashid is the author of the best-selling book Taliban and, most recently, of Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Here is a selection of your comments:
There is a serious disconnect in this story. It says that the Pakistan army is successful against the Pakistani Taliban but not doing much against the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan cannot fight inside Afghanistan. Nato and US forces as well as mercenary armies, totalling more than 200,000, have been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years and have failed. They have wittingly or unwittingly failed to stop the flow of Afghan Taliban into Pakistan. Were they sleeping? How can you tell an Afghan Taliban from a Pakistani Taliban? They all look the same. So how can Pakistan be fighting the Pakistani Taliban only? The fact is that the Western forces keep blaming Pakistan to hide there own abysmal failure. Eight years of fighting in Afghanistan by Nato and the US has been a total failure. In contrast the Pakistani armed forces have thoroughly defeated the terrorists in certain areas, who are aided by Western allies India and Afghanistan. The blame lies somewhere else. Let the West do more in Afghanistan. They must stem the flow of terrorists into Pakistan who are trying to destabilise the country with the connivance of foreign powers. Pakistanis are subjected to almost daily acts of terrorism and suffer terribly. The Western powers do not seem to recognise that Pakistan is the biggest victim of terrorism in the world. The Pakistani army has lost hundreds of men in the conflict and the yet the Western media orchestrates propaganda against Pakistan. The civilian losses, due to acts of terrorism in Pakistan, runs into many thousands. The loss to property due to terrorism has cost billions of dollars. The economy is suffering as a result. The USA spends $60bn a year in Afghanistan and offers a pitiful $1.5bn to Pakistan. Somebody somewhere in the West must find out what the truth is! The general public in the West must be told this truth. But I doubt if any body will!
Syed Fazle Hadi, Pakistan
One needs to look at India's intimate relations with hardcore militant groups in Afghanistan and within Pakistan whose sole job is to create instability and tarnish their arch rival's reputation world wide. India's involvement, financial and covert support to these militants have caused immense sufferings to innocent peoples.
Gohar Mamikon, Canada
I'm a giant fan of Ahmed Rashid, who has been right on a lot of his predictions for the region, even looking 10 years ahead. But what is the US to do? If they give the Pakistan government and army the money, the government may not act to calm the region and eliminate the Afghan sanctuaries. If they don't give the money, the Taliban may seize power and nuclear weapons. Is there a reasonable solution, Mr Rashid?
Jacquelyn Yates, US
The Taliban should be wiped out from the face of the earth, they are the enemy of peace.
The main challenge for the world in the next decade is to rid Pakistan of all nuclear weapons. A country like Pakistan should have never been allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Pakistan will also split into four countries in the decade ahead. Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and NWFP all deserve independence.
R Nathan, United Kingdom
This was a very good writing on Taliban and Pakistan-Afghanistan. If America gives up its double standards with Pakistan and the drone attacks, Pakistan can defeat Taliban.
As long as the west is in Afghanistan, both Pakistan and Afghanistan will be plagued by the evil that is terrorism which is being engendered and encouraged by the US in Afghanistan. If this simple truth cannot be seen, then I cannot see an end to the troubles in those countries.
Pakistan must realise that a terrorist is a terrorist. A terrorist who is created by the Pakistani state establishment and sent to infiltrate Indian part of Kashmir cannot be a "freedom fighter" while a terrorist who blasts a bomb and kills hundreds of Pakistanis inside Pakistan is a "terrorist". The authorities must realise that this state created "freedom fighter" and his cohorts are more and more responsible for the inhuman destruction inside Pakistan today. If you breed terrorists, you are responsible for their acts. The western powers should point this out to Pakistan sternly. But will they do it? Musharraf who openly called terrorists in Indian part of Kashmir as "freedom fighters" is living in London on British tax payers' money. So the British tax payer supports a man who openly defines a terrorist as a freedom fighter.
Arun Mitra, Canada
Mr Rashid is right in saying that national security will remain the most nerve-wracking issue for this country. The lawless north-west of the country is likely to regain its former intensity, and will possibly bring not only the government's stability, but of the country as well. For the man in the street, the bigger foe than Taliban is the inflation ridden economy - and many of its citizens will struggle to put food on the table. The main export and the industry will slide into non-existence as the demand in the West weakens further. This will push the local currency to a weaker position against the US dollar, fuelling further inflation. A very fragile state of affairs - for a country with enemy within and without - and pave way for Baluchistan to secede, and even a flaring civil war.
Omer Ismail, US
The Taliban and other extremist groups in the area know that they can effectively capitalise on the souring US-Iran, US-Pakistan and India-Pakistan relationships to succeed in their goal. This is exactly why a mutual agreement between nations (that are directly involved in the conflict) is needed. If Iran, Nato, Pakistan and India are to collaborate then tackling this threat would become considerably easier. However, this is not possible because the countries mentioned above do not trust each other and have their own set of demands for each issue. To conclude: I agree that 2010 will be a crucial year for the South Asian region and its populace.
Please tell me why investors are leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of Obama's 1 December announcement of the troop escalation? Are they afraid of the damage the Americans will do?
Laurel Thompson, US
I don't see how 2010 will be a decisive year in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The billions of dollars the US is pouring into both countries feeds the corrupt pro-American officials and their cronies at the top, but, at the same time, fuels anti-American hostility and resentment in the population at the bottom of both counties. Pakistan's Dawn newspaper said on 26 May 2009 that the US aid is "lining a few pockets" in Pakistan, while Karzai's government officials are brimming with dollars like the Latin America's drug lords.
Nikos Retsos, US
The way America is doing things it will never succeed in Afghanistan. So it would be best to change its strategy and pull out of Afghanistan at the earliest.
Swaminathan Palendira, Australia
The present situation is simple: opposite but vital self-interests of insiders and outsiders are facing each other in a geopolitical game in the region. The outsiders-the West, have no chance to win against the tide of history.
M. Asghar, France
India resuming dialogue without any action by Pakistan on the Punjab-based terrorists (such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba responsible for the Mumbai massacre) will be tantamount to surrendering to terrorism. Pakistan's game plan is simple. Once India resumes dialogue, it will demand Kashmir on a silver platter, meaning that terrorism will end only Pakistan's Kashmir demands are met. Can any self-respecting government in New Delhi acquiesce to such a demand?
i believe its now about the question of Survival for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Pakistani army and her spy agency must realize that by not acting against the Afghan Taliban they are sending a wrong message to the extremist forces in the region, if Pakistan believes that America will leave soon and Taliban will recapture Afghanistan again, this will be a day dream, the Americans may go, but the afghan people will be here, as they were there during the resistance, ISI created these groups and today they are sending their compliments to its masters by killing innocent Pakistanis. Stop it, terrorism have no friends. Let's fight them together.
Maihan Saeedi, Afghanistan
When it comes to India, even the respected Rashid gets disingenuous. It is not that Pakistan is unwilling to break up anti-Indian groups. The truth is that these groups are protected by powerful military and intelligence agencies. End of hostilities with India would reduce the power and influence of Pakistan's military. As a result, Pakistani politicians have nothing to offer for engaging with India in peace talks. The Kargil experience was a defining moment for India. While Pakistani politicians were talking peace, Pakistani military was waging war. For Pakistan to pursue peace with India, the Pakistani military must be subservient to the political process.
If AF-PAK problem is not solved in 2010 the world and specially America will pay a heavy price. Success in AF-PAK can be linked to the question of America's survival
Sachin khanna, India
It is Pakistan which is breeding ground for terrorism. Almost every major terror attack in world has Pakistani link. Taleban/Al-Qaeda and their subsidiaries can never become so powerful until unless they have been patronized by the people who control the power in Pakistan. US and Allies are barking up the wrong tree. I am happy US has started attaching strings to aid that it gives Pakistan which is a clear sigh of widening trust deficit between 2 allies. US seems to be loosing its patience and I think time is not far when US gets tough with Pakistan.
Get right people in right places in Pakistan is key to win this war on terror. Neither the current government nor the opposition party of PMLN has effective leadership who can manage this current crisis. PMLN is has soft corner for Taliban while current government is full of incapable and corrupt people. West has no choice but to trust Pakistan Military and try to win there trust which is difficult but not impossible. Aid provided to Pakistan should be channelled through NGOs and private trustable charities as Aid provided to Government never reaches poor and needy of Pakistan. West has to win hearts and minds of ordinary Pakistani by supporting them. Majority of Pakistanis are peace loving people. 2010 is undoubtedly very crucial year not just for Pakistan and Afghanistan but for the whole entire world. Peace is what is what we all need.
Iftikhar Sadeed, UK
I respect the analyses of Mr Ahmed Rashid but fail to understand why India is always being pushed to start dialogue with Pakistan. After all India has made all efforts all the time while Pakistani governments have always gone for rhetoric. The Pakistani government's absence of interest in bringing the players behind the Mumbai attack to justice shows that they want to play both sides of the game. In such a situation it is unreasonable for them to expect any cooperation from the Indian government to resume the dialogue.
Surinder Puri, USA
Taliban just need to lay low until 2011 Obama will be pulling out. You'll only have to blink and the Europeans will be gone before that.
Harry Kuheim, USA
There's a sense of déjà vu here about Rashid's suggestion that Pakistan be helped with economic and political aid. America has given billions of dollars for the past 50 odd years. China and Saudi Arabia has done the same. Lacking accountability, aid-dependent Pakistan has utterly failed to invest in modern education and a democratic mind-set, while diverting the aid to buying arms from the West and China. Using a manufactured threat from a rising India the corrupt, self-serving feudal-clergy-Army elite has ensured that Pakistan will never rise above its self-defeating hatreds and petty-mindedness. Pakistan is headed for destruction and the world has to quarantine this failing state from the ensuing chaos.
Sonny Azhak, London, UK
Why is it that whenever Mr Rashid writes an article for BBC, it is a must to malign Pak army? Why don't Americans and NATO forces take the responsibility for their failures in Afghanistan and Mr Rashid stop being a poodle for the BBC? Do not blame others for your own shortcomings; especially those who have made 'your' war 'their own' war.
Ali Amjad, France
Why blame Pakistan for it? Wasn't it the US who funded these terror structures? From the pickups they drive to the ammo they fire its all US funded. What you sow is what you reap.
Shahid Khan, India
Ahmed Rashid often tries to show that his observations are objective, but these are very much through western eyes. I am sure he has questioned US and west's involvement in Afghanistan - its in their interest, so why is it wrong for Pakistan to do things that are in its interest ? why should Pakistan not align with afghan groups that support Pakistan ? even if it conflicts US interest ! money offered is a bribe (say it Rashid) and an insult - $1.5b is peanuts per capita a few dollars, some countries are getting hundreds of dollars (is real, Egypt, etc). The country is in an economic mess most of which western govt put down to corruption, etc though valid but not totally, Pakistan has lost billions as a result of the actions Pakistan has been forced in to for the west - the west needs to seriously allow Pakistan preferential treatment for trade etc not give peanuts - if serious then at least $15b per year with all the safeguards they want ie transparency etc. The army for all it! s faults is thinking in Pakistan's interest - which is to ensure arch enemy India are not allowed to get a foot hold in Afghanistan - to ensure the army stays out of power and Afghanistan and the nuclear button then resolve Kashmir !! deal with the major issues concerning the major players then you will be able to deal with the lunatic Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
S Khan, UK
World is facing threat from terrorists trained and battle hardened in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unless these countries are determined to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in their countries how other countries will help Afghanistan and Pakistan ?
Jairaj Yadav, Singapore
I have a solution for the United States. Admit that the previous administration was going down the wrong path and fix your international image before its too late.
A very pessimistic article by a very pessimistic writer!
Dr Sohrab Khan, United Kingdom
No doubt about it! Pakistan has to take the fight to the Taliban heartland. If not for the sake of Pakistan's fragile and sometimes tentative relationship with the US, more importantly for it's own existence. Pakistan has to attack this problem with an unwavering commitment! For all it's claims of representing itself as the saviour of all that is Islamic, the Taliban have indeed become a malignant cancer in society that has to be uprooted, starting from the border areas of Pakistan/Afghanistan. That said, I still question how the Taliban are able to pass through security set ups in Pakistan and successfully detonate bombs, killing the innocent and sowing destruction. I also question the "partnership" between the security forces and the fledgling civilian government of Zardari.
Pakistani nuclear weapons is the greatest "prize" for the Taliban and so should be destroyed thus lessening threat of global destabilisation. This should be followed by India signing the non-proliferation treaty.
David Jacobs, New Zealand
I don't think anti-American terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere can be tackled militarily or through economic assistance. The main source of the menace is US and Israeli aggression and hegemony. It's time for some out-of-the-box thinking about the challenge, beginning with a truly independent commission to study the problem.
Mustafa Malik, United States
I always wonder why media portraying Taliban as some thing supernatural or invisible, or they have mind set already? Why people still see difference between Al Qaida & Taliban, sometimes even "good Talibans(like "good" lucifer". I always been fan of Ahmed Rashid for depicting very true picture of Pashtun & insurgency going on there& In order to win the war against Taliban/Al Qaida in Pakistan & Afghanistan, few point must be taken in consideration. 1. Talibans get regular funding from many sources which for sure people like Ahmed Rashid & many others know, have we seen any action against such channels to dry out their finances? Surely not, its like cutting the leaves (not even shoots) & leaving the roots intact! 2. The breeding grounds for Talibans recruits are so called madrassas(religious schools) which mushroomed mainly in President Zia's era, those need to be properly check. 3. Vast majority of people in Pashtoon area oppose ideas of Taliban but they are leaderless & without any backing. In some strange way any one rises against Taliban killed in mysterious way ,wonder why! 4. Pashton people need jobs & regular income & development work in their areas to counter the extremist elements as in last 30 years of war in Afghanistan & in pashton area have literally obliterated any sort of economic activities, which need to be restored on a.s.a.p. basis. 5. The tribes, elements against the Talibans & al Qaida need to be organised, supported both by money, weaponry & other support they needed. Policy of "collective responsibility" should be reintroduced in FATA/pashton area, which worked very well in last 100 years but for that proper support should be given as British did in colonial era. If its not possible then FATA should be incorporated in urgent basis in Pakistan as normal unit of any Province. 6. Political parties should be encouraged to work in FATA to counter the fundamentalists & let the people have voice against such people & their own parliamentarians. 7. So far I am seeing no direct communication of authorities with local tribal leaders, instead they are more keen to appease the extremist elements & eager to talk with them, instead local people/elders should be involved. Hopefully our people get the chance to live in peace very soon as they have bled enough in last 30 years.
Qaisar Hussain, UK(present)
As always, Rashid is on the ball as far as Pak-Afghan scenario is concerned. Karzai regime is woefully weak to deliver on extremist threat. As if possessed by death wish, major institutions in Pakistan are sparring each other even as jihadis of various hues are taking heavy toll of civilians. The Army appears to be the bigger culprit for not shedding the perilous 'strategic depth' strategy. This is fraught with grave consequences for the region.
M.Srinath Reddy, India
The cause of this instability is the US and Western presence in these areas. Once the US and its allies withdraws, things will calm down immediately. Pakistan can guarantee that, with its strategic relations with the Afghan Taliban; at the same time the Afghan Taliban have sent signs that things will not be the same as before, should they return to power, meaning that they would not support Al Qaeda in any way.
Shaban Malik, USA
I agree with the article that these problems are deep and will take a long time to sort out. I also recommend highly Rashid's book "Taliban." However, at the risk of being foolishly simplistic, I have to ask : What is preventing the annexing of Afghanistan along religious/ ethnic boundaries, just as former Yugoslavia and India were? Is this an option?
I am amazed at this analysis by Ahmed Rashid, specially about the follow part : 'With the present lack of security in Pakistan - and the volatile mood towards the US and India that is partly being fuelled by the military - it is difficult to see how US aid can be effectively spent or how other economic investments can take place.' The author here mentioned his concerns about volatile mood of people of Pakistan. But he fails to recognize the Indian attempts to undermine Pakistan's stability for instance the breaching of Indus Treaty or building of dams to simply deprive Pakistani areas of water. With all due respect, but this is a shallow analysis by Ahmed Rashid.
There is no reason why India should resume talks. Firstly there is no coherent authority in Pakistan. The Zardari government could fall anytime. And even if it doesn't, what good would it do talking to a failed state. India's stern initially policy of not talking to Pakistan for its fomentation of terrorism in Kashmir has paid dividends. India, for its interests is better allied with nations like the US, the UK, and Israel and Afghanistan in tackling Islamic terrorism, simply because the other states cannot be trusted.
Nipun Shukla, USA
What I fail to understand is why Ahmed Rashid continue to dodge the most obvious question i.e. the occupation of Nato/US of this region which led to the instability we are witnessing. Prior to 2001 there was no suicide bombings or war in Pakistan's tribal areas. Unless the question of occupation is settled and legitimacy of Afghan government which continue to be seen as the puppet of Washington especially after recent rogue elections, this chaos will continue and no amount of "goodwill" from the West will help.
Tauseef Zahid, Pakistan
The writer is sensationalist. 2009 could be the worse year. At the start of the year no one gave us a chance of surviving. Everyone thought this year Pakistan would be written off the map of the world, guess what we are still standing. 2010 will be a payback time for Pakistan, we are going to take on Taliban in their back yard.
Pakistan has no need to fight the Afghan Taliban, we are fighting our own war with the Pakistani Taliban, we will fight the Afghan Taliban once the threat to our nations is removed. We do not have to fight the West's war, the Afghan Taliban benefit Pakistan more than the Karzai government.
This man never fails to amaze me with his spite for the brave Pakistan military. Our soldiers are laying their lives on the line every day to defend our nation and Rashid has the nerve to state the following - 'With the present lack of security in Pakistan - and the volatile mood towards the US and India that is partly being fuelled by the military'. Why does the BBC continue to waste money using this man to provide insights to what's happening in Pakistan. Take a look at how our brave lads are fighting the true enemies of Islam and Pakistan in NWFP. Ahmed either stand behind the boys and the nation or find some other country to waste away in.
''Islamabad is refusing to do so until Delhi resumes talks with it.'' This is flatly wrong, Islamabad will never do so, eve if India talks or not. India has been talking with Pakistan for a long time, Lahore bus service and composite peace dialogue are two examples. Ironically both attempts resulted in India getting Kargil invasion and Mumbai attacks respectively. So here things are quite clear. Besides Pakistan will never be able to defeat both Afghan and Pakistan Talibans. Simply because the former are an asset to them, and the later are not perceived as an existential threat to the country by the Pakistani ruling class and common people.
Naveen Kumar, Germany
I think it is quite worthless and biased analysis by Mr. Ahmed Rashid. All the burden is shifted towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, instead urging US and the European allies to take just and fair path in its war against terrorism.
Syed Mujahid Hussain, Finland
If we want to bring peace in this world, we are supposed to be fair in our policies. Every one discusses about Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In the near past, there took place more than one mishaps in Indian atomic reactors, which shows how irresponsible and incapable they are to secure their atomic weapons. But since the world media is following a double-standard policy and therefore, no channel including BBC did highlight that.
M Sajjad, Pakistan
In your article, you have ignored two basic reasons for the chaos prevalent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Muslim world in general, these reasons are: -An over emphasis on religion (rather than education and reason) in all Muslim countries, -The primary instigator of Muslim anger in all Islamic countries, stems from the cruelty and inhumanity inflicted by the Israeli government on the Palestinians. Why is the USA in particular and Europe in general, always shying away from the core issue of imposing sanctions on Israel for all the war crimes that it has committed against the Palestinians? The US is over eager to impose sanctions on Iran, but, not on Israel, which actually loaded nuclear bombs on it's F-4 fighter planes during the Yom Kippur war. All Muslim nations witness Israeli atrocities every day on TV screens , can any one really expect Muslims not to be antagonized on seeing such cruelty? The way to defeat the Taliban in both Afghanistan and in Pakistan is to deemphasize Mullahs' mosques and religion in general, rather than ask the Pakistan army to fight the Afghan Taliban, while the US retreats from Afghanistan .
Barbiere de Seviglia , Pakistan.
As long as India refuses to solve Kashmir problem I do not see why Pakistan should help USA to solve Afghan problem. Pakistan did not create Afghan problem. It is created by USA. Kashmir is the main problem in the sub-continent for more than 60 years. USA should pressure India to solve Kashmir probe. Four hundred fifty million Muslims in the sub-continent will not rest till Kashmir problem is solved. India is playing the same game in Kashmir as the Israelis are doing in the middle east.
Nurul Khan, Canada
Mr Rashid's point of view is totally flawed. He views the situation in Afghanistan from West's point of view. 2010 is not at all decisive year in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Problem is not Taliban but unlawful war against Muslims and Islam by American and Western forces. America will have withdraw and accept a disgraceful defeat and Afghan people will attain their independence. Pakistan's situation also will improve, with powerful and fair judiciary now in place, Zardari's days are numbered. Sooner Pakistan withdraws from America's terroristic war against Islam, better it is for their future and for regional stability.
Muhammad Javaid Rana, Switzerland
The US should know that the road to Kabul runs through Delhi via Islamabad. Pakistan will give as much on Afghanistan as India gives on Kashmir. Of course, it can be argued that a country in straits as dire as Pakistan can ill-afford such brinkmanship; that it should cut its losses and save what it still can. But to expect the Pakistan army to ever adopt such a viewpoint is laughable. They couldn't do so in 1971 and lost half the country, and they'll lose the remainder before they accept that Kashmir is simply not worth the cost.
Shehzad Shah, Pakistan
Ahmed Rashid's an excellent article, and one thing I want to add if Americans leave Afghanistan in the mid of 2011, by that time the Afghan National Army and National Police are still under-numbered, under-trained and under-equipped then who can say that America and Europe would be safeguarded from the terror attack. Kabul will be taken on in days not even in weeks. It would be in the large interest of America and NATO to lengthen their mission in Afghanistan until and unless Afghan people say them that they are capable enough to safeguard the country's boundary.
Iqbal M.Miakhel, Afghanistan