In the Middle East, changing winds

The U.S. has to cut a deal with Pakistan to stem the Taliban insurgency.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama declared his intent to increase the United StatesâÄô troop presence in Afghanistan by 50 percent, an increase of 17,000 troops. This decision was met with approval by the Afghan government, who described it as a âÄúpositive development.âÄù While sending our soldiers to a region that actually wants them is an encouraging change, the effort may prove fruitless, thanks to Pakistan. Earlier this week, Pakistani officials halted military action against Taliban fighters in the Northwest Frontier Province. Negotiations between the Taliban and Pakistan concluded with the local implementation of Islamic law in exchange for a ceasefire. To give an idea about the consequences of this deal, consider the negotiator representing the Taliban: Maulana Sufi Mohammed, a man who served a prison sentence for leading guerilla attacks into Afghanistan. By striking this deal, Pakistan has not only endorsed Taliban insurgency, it has legitimated it as a kind of government-in-exile. PakistanâÄôs president, Asif Ali Zardari, has not yet approved the deal, which presents the U.S. with a window of opportunity. The U.S. should offer to cease the missile strikes and ground incursions that have undermined governmental authority in Pakistan in exchange for quitting the deal with the Taliban and escalating military action against them. Besides breaking the TalibanâÄôs safe haven, it would show Pakistani citizens that its government is in full control and will not negotiate with terroristic elements. Should we fail to do so, the ensuing quagmire could be far worse than anything seen in Iraq.