Austin Bay

"Six years after 9-11," he said, "while we have made significant progress in Afghanistan in the formal building of institutions -- particularly the (Afghan) Army -- we will need to enhance the capacity of Afghan government to deliver services." Education of "service deliverers" is essential to improving that situation."

"The Afghan people still do not feel safe," the ambassador acknowledged. "Protection provided by international forces and the Afghan government is not adequate."

Since this is particularly true along the Afghan-Pakistan border, I asked Jawad if a "cross-border counter-attack" by Afghani and allied forces to destroy Taliban and al-Qaida bases in Pakistan was inevitable.

"There is no doubt that the sanctuaries are operating on the other side of the border," he replied. Pakistan has a capable military but "lacks full commitment" to deal with the terrorists. Pakistanis must be convinced that "it is in their best national interest, and in the interest of regional and global stability, to act."

At the moment, Afghanistan prefers to pursue a long-term diplomatic strategy with Pakistan. "Afghanistan has promised Pakistan we will be their best ally," the ambassador said. "We will provide them access into Central Asia. ... I think more and more Pakistan's administration and military are realizing supporting terrorism is a very dangerous game. It completely undermines Pakistan and destabilizes it, as well."

To pinch a phrase from 2001, Afghan diplomats are "sipping a lot of tea" with their Pakistani counterparts. Their diplomacy is a frustrating process -- as they talk, suicide bombers kill on a daily basis. NATO, the Afghan Army and the United States may launch a cross-border counterattack, but the diplomatic approach acknowledges Pakistan's political fragility. It is encouraging that the Afghanis are assuring the Pakistanis that Afghanistan is a "committed ally."

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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