When you're in a drawn out fight with no end in sight and even your friends start betting on the other side, it's time to consider your options.
That pretty much describes our predicament in Afghanistan. We're fighting a fight we cannot win. The rules are not in our favour. We win when, and only when, we destroy our opponent, the rebel/insurgents. They win by nothing more than not being utterly destroyed, by surviving, by simply running out the clock. That's the war we're fighting in a nutshell.
Eight years on we don't have much, if anything, to show for our efforts. Our enemy, on the ropes in the first round, has bounced back and has grown and spread its control over many parts of the countryside. Our enemy has become such a threat that we're mustering our forces and falling back in defence of the cities - "defence" being the operative word.
We demand things of the guy we placed into power that he has no intention of delivering. From time to time he angrily ridicules us even as he plays us for all he can get. The worst of the gang of warlords who once made themselves scarce are back, confident they're safe from even being tried for their own wanton cruelty and butchery. These guys aren't sticking their necks out to help us help them. They're laying low, watching from the sidelines, planning their own next moves.
But the guys who are really betting against us are our very best allies in the War on Terror, the government and military leadership of Pakistan. They're not even pretending any more. From The New York Times:
The Obama administration wants Pakistan to turn on Mr. Haqqani, a longtime asset of Pakistan’s spy agency who uses the tribal area of North Waziristan as his sanctuary. But, the officials said, Pakistan views the entreaties as contrary to its interests in Afghanistan beyond the timetable of President Obama’s surge, which envisions reducing American forces beginning in mid-2011.
...the Pakistani leadership has greeted the refrain with public silence and private anger, according to Pakistani officials and diplomats familiar with the conversations, illustrating the widening gulf between the allies over the Afghan war.
Former Pakistani military officers voice irritation with the Americans daily on television, part of a mounting grievance in Pakistan that the alliance with the United States is too costly to bear.
The core reason for Pakistan’s imperviousness is its scant faith in the Obama troop surge, and what Pakistan sees as the need to position itself for a regional realignment in Afghanistan once American forces begin to leave.
It considers Mr. Haqqani and his control of large areas of Afghan territory vital to Pakistan in the jostling for influence that will pit Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran against one another in the post-American Afghan arena, the Pakistani officials said.
Unless Washington can somehow get Islamabad to reverse course and do what it has never done, truly join the fight against the Taliban, our Af/Pak war is over. We lost. The only question remaining is how long it will take for us to realize it. But rest assured. We can go on bombing and shelling and machine gunning vast tracts of Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas for years yet. And we probably will.