This is an excellent analysis of the situation that Petraeus confronts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original article at Japan Focus includes hyperlinks to all of the quoted material, as well as photographs and annotated maps of the region. The author, China Hand, runs the China Matters blog.
All parties agreed that the only solution to Afghanistan's conflict is through dialogue, not fighting.
It appears that the key job before General Petraeus will be to co-opt the regional impetus toward a negotiated settlement, prevent Saudi Arabia from mid-wifing a power-sharing arrangement favorable to the Taliban, assert American control and direction over the process to assure America's continued presence at the center of Afghan's security equation, and spike the loose cannons that threaten his plan.
First, from 1973:
The Art of Fighting Without Fighting
Now, some selections from the archive.
Steve Coll, from 2004:
If at first you don't succeed, at least learn from your mistakes.
Google's Eric Schmidt:
Failure is an essential part of the process.
NYT's Eric Schmitt, from May 2006:
"I'm more concerned in the long term about the results of the drug war in Afghanistan than I am about resurgent Taliban," said the NATO military commander. The government and its NATO allies have not lost the people yet, officials say. But it is getting close to that.
Carlotta Gall, reporting after the late 2006 peace deal:
Javed Iqbal, the newly appointed Pakistani secretary of the tribal areas, defended the North Waziristan accord:
"We have tried the coercive tactic, we did not achieve much. So what do you do? Engage."
Steve Coll, reporting shortly after Bhutto's death (also, audio):
I asked if the local Taliban played favorites at election time. “The Taliban have no part in politics,” Paracha answered emphatically. “They are totally against democracy and the ballot. They will decide everything under the Holy Koran or with the bullet.”
General Rashid Qureshi, Musharraf’s spokesman, said the notion that Pakistan might support the Taliban was “a ridiculous argument, really. We have lost over a thousand military men fighting these extremists. How can the government be supporting extremists to fight its own security people?”
From a year ago, on Winning in Afghanistan:
While NATO has won every battle against the Taliban, the insurgency still grows.
Without reform [of NATO] the prospects for Afghanistan are dire.
Elizabeth Rubin, from Aghanistan this past February:
If you peel back the layers, there’s always a local political story at the root of the killing and dying. That original misunderstanding and grievance fertilizes the land for the Islamists. Whom do you want to side with: your brothers in God’s world or the infidel thieves?
From June, on "winning", in a review by Ahmed Rashid:
There is in fact much internal debate going on about extremism within Pakistan and other Muslim countries—in the press, the universities, the bureaucracies. However, unless the state authorities in the region actively promote a moderate version of Islam and come down hard on extremism, the civil society is not strong enough to do it on its own. Moreover, Western powers can never win the religious argument as long as they continue to occupy Iraq and other Muslim countries with armed forces.
Dexter Filkins, from last month:
Here is one of the more fundamental questions of the long war against Islamic militancy, and one that looms larger as the American position inside Afghanistan deteriorates: Whose side is Pakistan really on?
... What happens when the militants you have been encouraging grow too strong and set their sights on Pakistan itself? What happens when the bluff no longer works?
... The more Pakistanis I talked to, the more I came to believe that the most reasonable explanations were not necessarily the most plausible ones.
'We're not going to win this war'