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Troubles in Pakistan

Another day, another drone strike in North Waziristan. The CIA hadn’t launched a drone attack in Pakistan in several months as Washington tried to settle the furor that erupted after the November attack, in which American planes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. But despite the Pakistani parliament’s recently issuing a scathing statement about the November incident, along with a “list of demands” that included a halt on drone strikes, a U.S. Predator drone fired two missiles at an abandoned girls’ school in Miram Shah yesterday, killing four fighters from the Haqqani network and wounding another two.

The signs suggest that a rapprochement between Washington and Islamabad is still out of reach. Sunday’s drone strike is sure to rile the ISI and other Pakistani leaders, just as Washington was certainly angered by intelligence reports that determined that last week’s spectacular assault by Taliban fighters on targets across Afghanistan was planned and coordinated from North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s leadership is embroiled in a separate political crisis: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted by the Supreme Court last week of contempt; a number of rivals are cheering for his immediate resignation—so far unsuccessfully. This weekend’s drone strike only caused a muted and contradictory public condemnation from Pakistan’s leaders. It seems that the prospect of an overdue basket of military aid estimated at $1 billion may have taken the edge of the Pakistani high command’s opposition to the resumption of drone strikes.

But picking off militant commanders and adding zeroes to army bank accounts won’t fix everything. A significant sector of Pakistani public opinion hates (the word is not too strong) both the drone strikes and Washington’s policies in south and central Asia. Supporting (or turning a blind eye toward) militants in North Waziristan and elsewhere still strikes some of Pakistan’s decision-makers as the smartest long-term policy.

As Marc Grossman, the highest-level American diplomat to visit Pakistan since November, met with Pakistani officials late last week, Washington tried to get what it could from Islamabad—especially reopening the supply corridor through Pakistan to NATO troops in Afghanistan—and will likely continue working to resume peace talks. Grossman, who replaced Richard Holbrooke in perhaps the most thankless and difficult task in American diplomacy, has his work cut out for him.

Via Meadia wishes him well.

But repairing the relationship with Islamabad may not be possible, and ending the conflict in Afghanistan, is going to be long, tenuous, slow work, and it won’t be over soon.

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