Since the start of the Arab Spring, the American media has paid precious little attention to the war in Afghanistan and our related headaches in volatile neighboring Pakistan. But less news has not meant good news. Today the New York Times reports that Pakistan is demanding the CIA sharply scale back its activities in that country, including the agency’s drone strikes against terrorist operatives in the country’s ungoverned tribal areas. (Reuters had a similar story Saturday.) Particularly ominous is the reported anger of Pakistan’s top Army general, Ashfaq Kayani, long considered America’s most important ally in the country, and who recently startled some U.S. officials with his public anger over a drone strike that claimed civilian lives.
Last week, meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that al Qaeda is returning to areas in eastern Afghanistan which U.S. forces have recently ceded–a terrible development in a war whose core rationale is about driving out al Qaeda. And finally, this epic gun battle at the end of March, which claimed the lives of six more Americans and wounded fifteen others, went barely noted in many outlets.
President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by July 1–although he’s apparently still deciding on many and how fast. It’s not an enviable decision: a big withdrawal and a token one each bring their own set of security and political risks. That’s why this is one of the most important decisions Obama will make this year; we’ll be hearing plenty more about it soon, no doubt.