The Key to the Afghan War: Pakistan

Earlier this week, the Pentagon released its latest progress report on Afghanistan, a document that revealed an enduring struggle to fight the insurgent fighters and Taliban forces. The report noted continued movement of insurgents over the border into Pakistani “safe havens,” which is an issue that has complicated efforts to make Afghanistan a stable and safe nation. This has been an issue that has plagued the NATO occupation since 2001, and one that will likely continue until relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Pakistan and the United States improve.

Yet this recent report notes improvement in those relations, and in the Pakistani desire to fight terrorism within their own borders. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, recent meetings between the United States and Pakistan have yielded some encouraging signs that Pakistan is working towards eliminating the terrorist “safe havens” inside Pakistan. Panetta stated recently, “My sense is that they’re in a better place, that they understand their responsibility. General Kiyani, in particular has indicated a willingness to try to put more pressure on the safe havens.”

The importance of securing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot be understated. For all intensive purposes, the border serves as a strategic area for the insurgents. They can wage war into Afghanistan against American and Afghani forces, and then retreat into the safety of Pakistan. This frustrates much of the progress the NATO military campaign has made, and allows Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations to recharge, regroup, and attack again.

While it is heartening that Pakistan is improving their efforts to eliminate safe havens within their borders, much more needs to be done if this problem is truly going to be fixed. The unfortunate alternative to Pakistani cooperation, is increasing the number of drone strikes that occur in Pakistan, which is a tactic widely criticized and violative of several provisions of international law. Clearly, the easier road is to work diplomatically through Pakistan to have them secure their borders, and stop harboring terrorists. Unfortunately, this is much easier said, then done.

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