The key to solving the puzzle of Afghanistan is Pakistan
Why, after 14 years of American military efforts, is Afghanistan still so fragile? The country has a democratically elected government widely viewed as legitimate. Poll after poll suggests that the Taliban are unpopular. The Afghan army fights fiercely and loyally. And yet, the Taliban always come back. ......... Mansour lives part time in Quetta, the New York Times reports, “in an enclave where he and some other Taliban leaders . . . have built homes.” His predecessor, Mohammad Omar, we now know, died a while ago in Karachi. And of course, we remember that Osama bin Laden lived for many years in a compound in Abbottabad. All three of these cities are in Pakistan. ........ the insurgency against that government is shaped, aided and armed from across the border by one of the world’s most powerful armies. ...... It is fundamental, and unless it is confronted, the Taliban will never be defeated. It is an old adage that no counterinsurgency has ever succeeded when the rebels have had a haven. In this case, the rebels have a nuclear-armed sponsor. ....... Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes. ....... Omar has been dead for two years, while Pakistani officials have been facilitating “contacts” and “talks” with him. ..... young Pashtun jihadis schooled in radical Islam at Pakistani madrasas. (“Talib” means student.) ..... “Pakistan has always worried that the natural order of things would be for Afghanistan to come under the sway of India, the giant of the subcontinent. ....... see reality for what it is: “When you are lied to and you don’t respond, you are encouraging more lies.” ..... Pakistan is a time bomb. It ranks 43rd in the world in terms of its economy, according to the World Bank, but has the sixth-largest armed forces. It has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and the most opaque. It maintains close ties with some of the world’s most brutal terrorists. By some estimates, its military consumes 26 percent of all tax receipts, while the country has 5.5 million children who don’t attend school . As long as this military and its mind-set are unchecked and unreformed, the United States will face a strategic collapse as it withdraws its forces from the region.