Losing Pakistan would be far too great a price to pay for any imaginable outcome in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Frontier Post, in an editorial lamenting Washington’s attitude toward Pakistan, has asked a fair question:
President Barack Obama’s anointed viceroy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke says militants are crisscrossing between the two countries of his domain. Then, why is the American army in Afghanistan not stopping their trafficking on its side? Why too are not the NATO forces and the Afghan army? Isn’t it their job? Or is it written in scriptures they all will sit in their secure bases away from the border, keep munching on burgers, expect the Pakistani military to do this job all alone and pass judgements on its act?
This question is not only reasonable but important because it must be in the minds of many Pakistanis. The absence of a good answer from Washington can only undermine U.S.-Pakistani relations. For the U.S. to fight a war in Afghanistan may or may not be rational; the answer, I admit, is debatable. But what is not debatable is the vastly greater significance of Pakistan. To wreck US ties to Pakistan and, worse, to wreck Pakistan in the process of fighting an inept American-style war in Afghanistan would make the Afghan war a disaster regardless of who ends up in control of that country.