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And, as Ambassador Patterson has emphasized, Islamabad is not about to risk losing that high card even in the unlikely event that Washington should threaten to curtail military assistance to Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan has other cards to play.
What most Americans forget regarding Afghanistan is that you can't get there from here. Some 80 percent of U.S. war materiel must traverse Pakistan.
Gen. Kayani has already demonstrated what he is willing to do when he feels Pakistani sensibilities are not taken seriously by the U.S. -- like blocking supply convoys and letting them be torched by "militants." In short, the Pakistanis are well aware that the U.S. needs them at least as much as they need the U.S.
Understandably, Pakistan's leaders are pleased to take their sizable share of U.S. taxpayer money, but among the painful lessons learned in Washington is that this does not translate into influence -- and especially not in regard to Pakistani strategic priorities and objectives.
Wooing a General
In Obama's Dec. 16 speech outlining the findings of his cursory Afghan War review, the President insisted that "we are seeing significant progress" in the goal of "disrupting, dismantling and defeating" al-Qaeda, but he complained that Pakistan's progress in rooting out terrorists "has not come fast enough."
"So," he added, "we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with." But Pakistani leaders have wearied of Washington's imperious tone and have become inured to this kind of empty rhetoric. They brush it aside and laugh all the way to the bank.
The Washington Post started the New Year with a front-page article offering more evidence about the U.S. dilemma, a piece by Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung, entitled "U.S. courts Pakistan's top general, with little result."
The title should have been "U.S. cannot harness Pakistan behind Afghan effort: Defeat Inevitable."
Still, the Brulliard/DeYoung report highlights the fact that Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mullen has been assigned the task of bringing Kayani around to Washington's way of thinking. Their story notes that Mullen has had "more than 30 face-to-face meetings with Kayani, including 21 visits to Pakistan since late 2007."
Two weeks ago, during his most recent visit to Pakistan, Mullen said it was "very possible" that Pakistan would be able to root out insurgents from havens inside its territory that serve as a launching point for lethal strikes in Afghanistan. Possible perhaps, but don't hold your breath.
Mullen has spoken of the "criticality of Pakistan in terms of overall success" in Afghanistan. The authors say, however, that both men believe there is a "trust deficit between the two militaries."
But it's not really a "trust deficit," as we've seen. It is a strategic difference " a clash of interests " that cannot be bridged.
A Simple Syllogism
In effect, Brulliard and DeYoung set up a simple syllogism, but avoided the politically incorrect conclusion, however compelling:
--Major premise: "What the Obama administration's recent strategy review concluded is a key to success in the Afghan war [is] the elimination of havens inside Pakistan where the Taliban plots and stages attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan."