Commentary Magazine


Pakistan Eyes Afghanistan as Obama’s Deadline Looms

All you need to know about the corrosive impact of President Obama’s deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan can be found buried deep in this page-one New York Times story:

[T]he Pakistanis say they have chosen this juncture to open talks with Mr. Karzai because, even before the controversy over General McChrystal, they sensed uncertainty — “a lack of fire in the belly,” said one Pakistani — within the Obama administration over the Afghan fight.

“The American timetable for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the spokesman for the Pakistani Army. He was referring to the July 2011 date set by Mr. Obama for the start of the withdrawal of some American combat troops.

The Pakistani role here is not positive; they are trying to get the Karzai government to strike a deal with the Haqqani network, one of the most murderous factions of the Taliban. Such a deal may make sense in the long run but only after the Haqqanis feel defeated; at the moment, they are feeling anything but. And Obama’s deadline, as much as anything else, is giving them confidence that they can prevail.