Fred Kaplan comments on the recent White House report on the 'progress' in Afghanistan:
The Obama administration's long-awaited review of its Afghanistan war strategy—or at least the unclassified five-page summary of it released Thursday—is a bleaker document than it may seem at first glance.Slate
On the one hand, it contains much talk of "significant progress" and "notable" gains in U.S. and NATO military operations. On the other hand, there's at least as much mention of the remaining "challenges" and the fact that even the gains are "fragile and reversible."
However, the fact remains, at least for the moment, that the Pakistani political and military leaders are not likely to change much more on this front, for the simple reason that they view India—not the Taliban—as the main threat to their existence.
This has two implications for the war in Afghanistan. First, the Pakistani army will insist on keeping the bulk of its troops on the eastern border with India at the expense of dealing with the Taliban safe havens on the western border with Afghanistan.
Second, the Pakistanis want—in their eyes, they need—to maintain influence inside Afghanistan, as a way to counter India's quite active attempt to gain influence inside Afghanistan (which India is pursuing mainly as a way to encircle Pakistan). And the way that Pakistan maintains this influence is through certain factions of the Taliban.
Earlier this year, Dexter Filkins reported in the New York Times that Pakistan had arrested more than 20 Taliban leaders who were in the process of negotiating peace deals with the Afghan government because they were doing so without involving Pakistan.
In short, U.S. officials may have lectured Pakistanis about the links between the Afghan Taliban and the al-Qaida militants who threaten Pakistan's government. But the Pakistanis see the two as distinct—and, in fact, regard some of the Afghan-based Taliban as their allies or even agents.