The last major offensive of the Afghan war is to begin later this year in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington told the National Journal, along with "an array of details about the coming push, which represents a high-stakes -- and politically complicated -- attempt to better secure Kabul as well as Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan before the American exit from the country accelerates."
Fascinating though this must be to Mullah Omar in his secret lair in Baluchistan, protected as he presumably is by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, there is even better news for him from Pakistan.
On Thursday, Pakistan's Parliament voted a new set of guidelines for relations with the United States, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force, and foreign policy in general. All music to Mullah Omar's ears.
First, all military attacks on, incursions into, or transportation of arms to Afghanistan through Pakistan territory must end immediately. Overt or covert action and the establishment of any foreign bases in Pakistan are prohibited. Adding insult to injury, Pakistan demanded an unconditional apology from the United States for the Nov. 25-26 attack on Pakistani troops that accidentally killed 25 Pakistani soldiers.
A thorough U.S. investigation concluded both sides were at fault for having misread coordinates, which made the apology conditional.
U.S. supply routes through Pakistan were immediately closed after the November incident -- and thousands of trucks have been backed up between the port of Karachi and the Khyber Pass on one route, and through Baluchistan to Chaman on the way to Kandahar.
The Pakistani Parliament also decided it was time for Pakistan to move away from its alliance with the United States Instead, the new guidelines call for strengthening the country's strategic partnerships with China, Russia, the Association of Southeast Asian nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council and for pursuing full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- China's answer to NATO.
Pakistani parliamentarians told the government to actively pursue a natural gas pipeline with Iran.
Unforeseen geopolitical pressures are edging the United States and its allies closer to the exit gates.
Mullah Omar has also been listening to Voice of America and BBC radio broadcasts about U.S. plans for 'the last U.S. offensive of the war." He has to begin to ask his black-turbaned guerrilla leaders whether this isn't clever American disinformation.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, the spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying the overall goals of the campaign in eastern Afghanistan will be "for the forces to focus on an expanded Kabul security perimeter, the link between Kabul and Kandahar, and the border areas."
The prestigious Council of Foreign Relations has circulated an article by Micah Zenko that reports a two-part question circulated throughout the Pentagon (where 25,000 officers, soldiers and civilians work): Can the United States win in Afghanistan? Will the United States win in Afghanistan?
While roughly half said they thought the United States could win in Afghanistan, "almost nobody believed that it would."
Zenko adds that "this disconnect has created an uncomfortable situation where some of the people who design refine, and implement U.S. strategy in Afghanistan simply do not believe it will ultimately succeed."
The American people -- or at least 70 percent of those polled -- want out of Afghanistan. Yet Allen, the ISAF commander, recently told the House Armed Services Committee, "I am confident that we will prevail in this endeavor."
Clearly, Allen couldn't say he doubted the United States would prevail without triggering a pell-mell rush for the exits. Besides, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already proclaimed that "In Afghanistan, we've made a turning point … the level of violence has gone down … we've seen the Taliban weakened so that they've been unable to establish and organize efforts … The bottom line is it's working."
Mullah Omar presumably reads the geopolitical tea leaves differently. They say as long as he retains the clandestine support of Pakistan's all-powerful ISI, and as long as the number of opponents to the war keeps growing in America and in the 44 nations that back the ISAF effort, he can afford to order his fighters to lie low until most foreign troops have left.
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