Turning Points in Afghanistan and Pakistan

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The devastating floods in the Punjab and the Taliban's brazen killing of aid workers in Northeastern Afghanistan might mark the molting of America's counterinsurgency strategy in the region. 

Badakhshan is not known as a redoubt of the Taliban, but now the military needs to figure out whether, in murdering Christian missionaries providing eye care to rural villages, they're re-establishing a foothold, and if they are, whether it's a one-off -- whether the Taliban retains the capacity to organize into a force that can overthrow Hamid Karzai's government. 

By November 1, Gen. David Petraeus will have all the troops that were promised by the White House. He then has eight months to show significant progress. Progress means fewer, not more, civilian casualties. It means functioning non-Taliban governments in the Pashtun belt. It means that aid workers can operate relatively freely across the country. It means that Al Qaeda has not reconstituted and cannot find breathing space.

In Pakistan, as has been widely reported, Islamic militants are providing aid where the already discredited Pakistani government cannot. The United States had sent six helicopters to a region where a million people are suffering. The Pakistani government might be fatally weakened by its inability to cope with the crisis. Moments ago, the National Security Adviser said that 436,000 halal meals, 12 bridges, six water filtration units and 14 rescue boards re being delivered to the region by the U.S. 1,000 Pakistanis have been rescued by Army helo crews already. It's a race to see who can provide more help. The U.S. needs a big footprint.


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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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