Merchant of Death
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Why Afghanistan Cannot Be Won
Under current conditions, the NATO-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be won. The most graphic reason is described in New York Times article on the reality of the Taliban control in Tribal Territories.

While the Pakistani army goes for show, flying journalists in for a brief visit to demonstrate how the Taliban is in retreat, the Taliban goes for a far different tactic.

Baitullah Mehsud, the head of Pakistani Taliban, called a news conference in the same area, drove up in a new Toyota SUV full of security carrying new AK-47 assault rifles, and holds court, unmolested, for an extended period of time.

Mehsud was not bashful about acknowledging his role in combating U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and promised to intensify those attacks. Articulating the standard _jihadi-Islamist_ view, he stated that "Islam does not recognize boundaries. There can be no deal with the United States."

(For a detailed look at recent developments, see the NEFA Foundation's paper on the region, which can be found here.)

So, after billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, and particularly the military and intelligence services, this is what we have:

The impunity of Mehsud's behavior has outraged the Bush administration, which is pressing the Pakistani government to arrest and prosecute him.

"Bringing Baitullah Mehsud, the head of this extremist group in South Waziristan — capturing him and bringing him to justice, which is what should happen to him," is what the United States wants from Pakistan, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said last month in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But the Pakistani government, which at times has considered Mehsud an ally and is now fearful of his power, appears reluctant to hunt him down. Days before his news conference, Pakistani forces pulled back from his realm in South Waziristan as part of the peace deals.

It is hard to think of a more hollow threat now than to cut off the Pakistani military and ISI from US funds. That simply has no credibility left. Negroponte and other can roar all they like to Congress and the outside world, but it only makes the situation worse.

It is time to stop pretending Pakistan can or will be an ally against the Taliban, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The group grew and was nurtured under the wings of the ISI, and are broadly supported, both by officials in Pakistan, and, in many places, by the population.

Without being able to rely on the Pakistani authorities to deny the Taliban sanctuary and without being able to take direct action in those areas itself, the NATO forces are hamstrung in an effort that at best can hold the line for a few years. Victory, or any semblance thereof, is simply out of the question as long as these sanctuaries remain.

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