Seeing Obama’s weakness, Pakistan sheds its mask yet again and offers Karzai a deal including one of his chief rivals, a key al-Qaeda ally. And since Karzai himself has spoken about joining the Taliban, and making peace with it in a power-sharing arrangement, it is hard to see what the downside would be for him. “As US falters, Pak plays Haqqani card in Kabul,” by Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Carlotta Gall in the Times of India, June 26 (thanks to Puneet):
ISLAMABAD: 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 American interests, Pakistani and American officials said.
The dismissal of Gen Stanley McChrystal will almost certainly embolden the Pakistanis in their plan as they detect increasing American uncertainty, officials said.
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-Qaida, 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 Pakistani army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban.
Washington has watched with some nervousness as Gen Kayani and ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the US cannot win in Afghanistan, and that post-war Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. In a sign of the shift in momentum, the two are scheduled to visit Kabul on Monday.
“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said. Though encouraged by Washington, the thaw heightens the risk that US will find itself cut out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis, and one that does not necessarily guarantee its prime objective in the war: denying al-Qaida a haven.