If you've wondered why there's so much duplicity, double-dealing on the part of Pakistan and even the Karzai government in Kabul, the answer is really quite simple. They're there and they know exactly how well the West's war against the Taliban is going and, most importantly, they realize they're still going to be there to deal with the aftermath when we're long gone. They know what it's like when the West moves on and forgets them as it did once the Soviets were driven out.
In a move jammed full of significance, they're beginning to speak their minds. This morning's Guardian has Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari coming right out and declaring that, as far as Afghanistan goes, the West has already lost:
"The U.S.-led coalition's battle against the Taliban has already been lost because of its failure to win over the Afghan people, Pakistan's president warned before talks with the British prime minister, who has accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism.
In an interview published online Tuesday by French daily Le Monde, President Asif Ali Zardari — widow of Benazir Bhutto — said the coalition "underestimated the situation on the ground and was not conscious of the scale of the problem" against the Taliban largely because "we have lost the battle to conquer the heart and soul" of the Afghan people."
We're now in that awkward stage where we keep bashing away in the military war, the one in which we cannot be defeated, well after the war that matters, the political war, has been lost. Much as there's not a lot to like in Zardari, he's right. We underestimated the situation on the ground from the day we got there and we're still doing it eight years later. We've never grasped the scale of the problem posed by the Taliban in a nation we allowed to remain plagued by warlordism and tribalism and corruption. And because of our hubris we've lost the battle to conquer the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Even Petraeus has said once you've lost the locals, it's over.
So let's not be too harsh over their double-dealing. They won't have to play both sides once our side leaves.