The White House report on Afghanistan is bleaker than you think

Those italics (all mine) make the point: Clearing the safe havens in Pakistan is not just an important ingredient in achieving our strategic objectives in Afghanistan; it is a requirement. Without it, all other successes are merely tactical and, even then, probably short-lived (“fragile and reversible,” as the report puts it)…

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…

And so, we’re hurled back to a basic question about this war and a tension that stirs ambivalence among many supporters and critics. On the one hand, our chances of success are improved if all the players in the region—Karzai, the Pakistanis, the Taliban, and the Afghan people—are convinced that the United States is going to stay for a long time to come. On the other hand, if our chances are nonetheless dim because of forces largely beyond our control (such as Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on the safe havens inside its territory), then maybe it’s time to draw down—but if we do that, how do we keep the Taliban from coming to power and al-Qaida from once again expanding its reach?