It is astounding that none of the strategists involved in this ill-conceived effort realised that by subjecting Pakistan to attack, would be seen as an attempt to reach the very heart of Islam, which for some centuries has ceased to be exclusively in the Middle East and has taken firm hold on the Indian Subcontinent. Just leafing through a book on the Mogul dynasty would have been enough, especially if coupled with an analysis of events tied to the Partition of 1947.
The developments in Iraq, years after the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner, are just as discouraging, and have the feel of a disaster waiting to happen. It is enough to ponder on recent statements by the Shiite leader Sayyid Muqtada el Sadr, once very much in the limelight and now conveniently ignored by the media: His call to his followers to desist from hostile activities until the final departure of the occupying forces is an eloquent indication of the obvious need to remain there for an indeterminate further period, during which inter-sectarian acts of violence will keep multiplying.
The consideration that these two military ventures have not made the world a "safer place" -- indeed, it would be closer to the truth to assert the contrary -- enhances the need urgently to find a way out, without being distracted by unrelated events and situations, particularly of an electoral nature.
The Afghan situation is made all the more dramatic by the virtual absence of a political counterpart with whom to conduct serious, meaningful negotiations, and the efforts to form responsible and reliable Afghan security forces have been having uneven success, especially considering that they have been going on for several years. Difficult as it is to look into the future, it seems legitimate to feel that the ultimate situation which the West will leave in Afghanistan will be in many aspects identical to the one left by the Soviet forces in 1989, with the added weight of even greater destruction and resentment.
(The author of this article is a former Italian Diplomatic Officer. He has spent sixteen years of his life in Afghanistan, lastly as Political Adviser to the Italian led ISAF contingent in Herat)