There have been a couple of changes to the state of play in the Af/Pak theater that I think are noteworthy. The first is Gen. Petraeus finally getting Hamid Karzai to agree to the use of local militias for security throughout the country. This is a vital step toward any hope of success for our strategy. We need the help of the local people to identify the Taliban and to help screen their tribal members from harm. Karzai has been quite reluctant to allow this as he sees it as a threat to his control of the security apparatus. His brothers control some of the largest non-governmental militias and they do not want any challengers vying for a piece of the pie.We have rightly insisted on the ability to arm and train the locals in the bulk of the country where the Afghan national security forces are not trusted or simply aren't around.
The second major ongoing change is Karzai's continued push to the front in calling for an Afghan face on the war and security in the country. He reaffirmed the goal of having Afghan forces primarily responsible for security by 2014 at a conference in Kabul attended by 70 countries. This is an easy thing to say in a setting like this, but much tougher to implement on the ground. Both Karzai and the Pakistanis have been maneuvering for influence with the Taliban based on their calculations that we will not likely be around for the long haul. That is why the Pakistani intelligence service has restricted the movements of Mullah Omar and others in their country and why Karzai has been negotiating w/ Taliban leaders trying to form a coalition that can declare some sort of peace.
The Obama administration seems to have tacitly or explicitly approved this approach as it gives them a way to begin drawing down our forces in advance of the reelection campaign of 2012. There was a fair amount of talk from the British prime Minister and Obama yesterday about their commitment to the long haul in Afghanistan, but I don't think too many folks are really buying that. The clock is ticking and we are in a battle to gain as much ground as possible so that whatever accommodations are eventually made are as advantageous as possible.