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06:08 pm: Pakistan
Things in Pakistan have changed rather rapidly since the change of Administration in the US. For most of the Bush Administration, the main Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, seemed to be doing more to help Islamic extremists as to fight them. ISI has long-standing ties to the Taliban, and to extremist groups in Kashmir. The response of the Bush Administration was a combination of saber-rattling and propping up an unpopular military government that it hoped could reign in extremists, including those inside the government. Predictably, this failed miserably.

Obama's people have been taking a very different tack. Supporting a new elected government, sharing intelligence and planning with the ISI and acting respectfully towards the Pakistani government and people have changed things very rapidly. The ISI has changed enough that the Taliban has now made multiple attempts to take out ISI's leadership. The Pakistani military is aggresively taking back territory it had ceded to the Taliban. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who had previously fled from Afganistan to Pakistan are now thought to be moving back to Afganistan, even as the US military builds up its forces there.

Not to say things are going great. They are a bloody mess. The government in Pakistan is still weak, vulnerable and nuclear armed. The government in Afganistan is still weak, trafficing opium and very corrupt. The US military still doesn't seem to have a clear plan for defeating the Taliban. But I am enourmously more hopeful about that part of the world than I was a year ago. I think Pakistan may finally be getting some rule of law, and realizing that internal exremists (as opposed to India) are its most pressing threat. The US military seems to be focussing more on providing security for Afgans rather than fighting endless skermishes with the Taliban. And the area between US forces and Pakistani forces where the Taleban can move with impunity seems to be shrinking. Now if only Afganistan could have a decent government with popular support, there is some chance things in that region could approach some semblence of stability.

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