Friday, September 29, 2006

This sounds about right

When Hamid Met Pervez

New York Times - Editorial

It will take more than a shared dinner at the White House to get Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to think and say nice things about each other. Their quarrel is no mere war of words in competing press interviews. It is about the real war being waged on Afghan soil by a revitalized Taliban, which recruits fighters in Pakistan and sends them almost unimpeded across a shared border.

General Musharraf says he is doing his best to stop this infiltration. But his best has been strikingly ineffective, considering the powers he wields as a military dictator, accountable only to his fellow Pakistani generals.

His latest move on the Taliban front was discouraging, to say the very least. This month he agreed to a cease-fire deal with tribal allies of the Taliban in North Waziristan, the border region of Pakistan where Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are thought to be holed up.

The agreement grants such foreign fighters the right to remain so long as local Taliban forces do not attack Pakistani soldiers and promise they will not cross into Afghanistan. As part of this understanding, Pakistani military checkpoints in the area are being dismantled.

President Karzai is understandably unhappy about this. President Bush should be too. Those Taliban fighters crossing into Afghanistan are not just killing Afghans. They are also killing American and NATO troops in growing numbers. This isn’t the first time General Musharraf has put domestic concerns ahead of the larger fight against international terrorism. He is still a useful American ally in that fight, but a dangerously selective one.

It would be overly simplistic to blame General Musharraf alone for Afghanistan’s increasingly perilous situation. In its hurry to move on to Iraq, the Bush administration never committed enough troops to establish the security needed for redevelopment and democracy to take root. And it has been too stingy with the kind of long-term development aid required to consolidate popular support.

Mr. Karzai, for his part, has been far too indulgent of corruption and drug trafficking. And, in the hope of extending his authority beyond Kabul, he has made damaging deals with brutal warlords.

Now that the dinner is over, Mr. Bush needs to focus on the real problems of Afghan security and reconstruction. And he needs to remind General Musharraf that the very minimum America expects of its allies is that they not concede any form of sanctuary to such sworn enemies of the United States as the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

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