A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights the point around which peace and stability hinge in South Asia: Pakistan. The threat of the Taliban and Al Queda using Afghanistan as a refuge and launching points for attacks against the United States is governed primarily by what happens in Pakistan.
Holbrooke is known for his directness, and this quote from the Wall Street Journal article sums things up nicely "If Afghanistan had the best government on earth, a drug-free culture and no corruption it would still be unstable if the situation in Pakistan remained as today. That is an undisputable fact, and that is the core of the dilemma that the Western nations, the NATO alliance, face today."
Money, information, equipment - all these flow through Pakistan to Afghanistan. Without a secure Pakistan, Afghanistan cannot achieve peace and stability, no matter how many or how few troops NATO decides to deploy.
Pakistan faces many challenges related to security and stability, and the pledge by President Obama to increase aid to Pakistan is a good start. Another hopeful sign was the averting of destructive political conflict between President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif recently. Thankfully, Holbrooke is an experienced diplomatic operator who understands Pakistan's difficult situation. He fully understands Pakistan's "red-line" view of U.S. troops operating on Pakistani soil. Strikes by unmanned drones are hard enough to swallow, but boots-on-the-ground might spark a conflict that could not easily be contained.
Cross posted at MyDD