20 July New York Times commentary - The Talibanís Silent Partner by Robert Kaplan.

When the American-led coalition invaded Afghanistan five years ago, pessimists warned that we would soon find ourselves in a similar situation to what Soviet forces faced in the 1980ís. They were wrong ó but only about the timing. The military operation was lean and lethal, and routed the Taliban government in a few weeks. But now, just two years after Hamid Karzai was elected as the countryís first democratic leader, the coalition finds itself, like its Soviet predecessors, in control of major cities and towns, very weak in the villages, and besieged by a shadowy insurgency that uses Pakistan as its rear base.

Our backing of an enlightened government in Kabul should put us in a far stronger position than the Soviets in the fight to win back the hinterland. But it may not, and for a good reason: the involvement of our other ally in the region, Pakistan, in aiding the Taliban war machine is deeper than is commonly thought.

The United States and NATO will not prevail unless they can persuade Pakistanís president, Pervez Musharraf, to help us more than he has. Unfortunately, based on what senior Afghans have explained in detail to American officials, Pakistan is now supporting the Taliban in a manner similar to the way it supported the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets two decades ago.

The Taliban has two leadership cells operating inside Pakistan, presumably with the guidance and logistical support of local authorities. Senior lieutenants to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Talibanís supreme leader, are ensconced in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. From there they direct military operations in the south-central Afghan provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Meanwhile, one of the Talibanís savviest military commanders, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and his sons operate out of Miramshah, the capital of the North Waziristan Province. From there, they run operations in Kabul and the eastern Afghan regions of Khost, Logar, Paktia and Paktika...