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Breaking the Stalemate in Afghanistan

After more than seven years of war in Afghanistan, the United States is upping the ante. With an additional seventeen thousand troops slated to begin arriving this spring, President Obama and his military commanders say they will seek to improve security and in turn, clear space for governance and development to take hold. But as the Obama administration fine-tunes its approach to the Afghan fight, it is also paying heed to a view long-held among experts in the region: To win the fight in Afghanistan, progress must be achived in Pakistan first.

In an interview with the New York Times this month, Obama said his new strategy aims to keep Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists; curb the cross-border flow of militants; and promote stability in the tribal regions of Pakistan. This week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan, told the Newshour the only way to break the stalemate is to take "an Afghanistan-Pakistan approach to the insurgency." The U.S. is also planning a corresponding civilian surge (WashPost). Yet whatever policy the new U.S. administration pursues, predictable hurdles await. A political and constitutional crisis is rattling Pakistan and the weakness of Islamabad's elected government has raised concerns that Washington lacks a capable partner. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, told the Washington Post aid money will not be authorized if Pakistani institutions appear unable to use it effectively.

If aid were linked to progress, Islamabad could be in for a financial hit. The Pakistani Taliban has in recent months tightened its grip on the Swat valley (al-Jazeera), despite a series of failed cease-fire agreements. Pakistan army efforts to control...

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