The Times continued its drumbeat of gloom on Afghanistan:
Pakistan Is Said to Pursue Foothold in Afghanistan
By JANE PERLEZ, ERIC SCHMITT and CARLOTTA GALL.
This article is by Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Carlotta Gall.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that would give Pakistan important influence there but is likely to undermine United States interests, Pakistani and American officials said.
The dismissal of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal will almost certainly embolden the Pakistanis in their plan as they detect increasing American uncertainty, Pakistani officials said. The Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, preferred General McChrystal to his successor, Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom he considers more of a politician than a military strategist, said people who had spoken recently with General Kayani.
Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.
In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.
Well, maybe a negotiated settlement won't be so bad, and we always knew there might be some strange bedfellows. Obama alluded to welcoming back some of the Taliban when he did the hokey-pokey surge last December:
We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.
Perhaps the Taliban will abandon violence after the government surrenders to them, and they will respect the right of all Afghan citizens to live under Taliban rule.
Obama's pesky withdrawal deadline is back:
Coupled with their strategic interests, the Pakistanis say they have chosen this juncture to open talks with Mr. Karzai because, even before the controversy over General McChrystal, they sensed uncertainty — “a lack of fire in the belly,” said one Pakistani — within the Obama administration over the Afghan fight.
“The American timetable for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the spokesman for the Pakistani Army. He was referring to the July 2011 date set by Mr. Obama for the start of the withdrawal of some American combat troops.
Darn, that July deadline was meant only as a reassuring signal of weakness and vacillation to the anti-war left. Who could have guessed that the Pakistanis and the Taliban were listening? Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates repudiated it a day later, Obama repudiated it yesterday, and still the people in the area think Obama is edging towards the exit. So inscrutable.