Sunday's Washington Post includes a typically lucid and well-informed article by Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani journalist whose well-timed book Taliban (published in 2000 by Yale University Press) justly became a bestseller, pointing out that Osama bin Laden is almost certainly in Pakistan. The article is highly critical of both the US and the Pakistani government. Noting that bin Laden was last seen in public in Jalalabad in Afghanistan in November 2001, he writes:
Few Afghan Pashtuns would have dared to betray him then. But times have changed in Afghanistan. The majority of Afghan Pashtuns now want the benefits of peace -- economic development, roads and schools.
Pakistan's Pashtuns, by contrast, have become more radicalized than they ever were before 9/11. And the bloody Taliban-al Qaeda resurgence now under way has relied on Pakistan's Pashtun belt for most of its recruitment, logistics, weapons and funding.
Ahmed Rashid has been reporting from and about Afghanistan for something like 25 years, and his views deserve to be taken very seriously by anyone wanting to know what's really going on there and in Pakistan. Since the fall of the Taliban, he has been consistently pessimistic about Pakistan in particular, notably in an October 10, 2002 article in The New York Review of Books. In October 2003, for my book Alive and Well in Pakistan, I asked him if he would rethink that article - if perhaps he had overplayed his strong assertions. No, he replied:
There's a very swift deterioration, if you look at all indicators. Has fundamentalism been checked since 9/11? No, it hasn't. [Afghanistan] is very bad. The whole of this year there's been enormous neglect. The money hasn't come. The international peacekeepers haven't come. And then course Iraq, which has preoccupied the world for the last year. The Taliban are resurgent. The economic resurgence hasn't begun. The warlords are still rampant. I think Iraq has had a hugely negative effect on Afghanistan. And the effect on Pakistan has been that it's led to a huge upsurge in anti-Westernism. It's had more of an impact than even the war in Aghanistan, which was next door.