We are pressuring Pakistan to hammer the jihadis in their frontier areas:
But now, in one sense, it's September 11, 2001 all over again. The U.S. has told Pakistan that it is fed up with getting screwed around by the ISI, and if Pakistan doesn't clean out the ISI, and shut down Islamic terrorists along the Afghan border, NATO, U.S. and Afghan troops will cross the border and do it.
Pakistan wants continued U.S. military aid to bolster its defenses against India. But if it suddenly has a hostile U.S. in Afghanistan, and less (or no) military aid, it's general military situation will be, well, not good. While Afghanistan, and the foreign troops there, are dependent on Pakistani ports and trucking companies for supplies, Pakistan is also dependent on the U.S. Navy for access to the sea. Pakistan does not want to go to war with the United States in order to defend Islamic terrorists it openly says it is at war with. Pakistan is being forced to destroy the Islamic radical movement it has nurtured over the last three decades, although it's still questionable if there's enough political will in Pakistan to actually do the deed.
When I've spoken of the Pakistani threat to our supply lines that makes me extremely wary of putting too many of our troops in this potential Stalingrad in the mountains, I recognize that a rational calculation on the part of Pakistan's rulers would mean they would never dare risk our loss of support by failing to protect our supply lines.
The problem is the source of that political will problem. Too many Pakistanis have either sympathies toward the jihadis or get all excitable that we are killing jihadis in Pakistan.
I don't know if the Pakistani government will always make a rational calculation when it comes to our supply lines. Will it be rational for Pakistani rulers to fight jihadis in the frontier when their own people are clamoring for their heads on a platter for waging such a war and there are other Pakistani politicians willing to ride that wave of anger to power? "Waging war" against America might be a far better alternative to their own loss of power, wealth, or even lives at the hands of excitable Pakistanis hopped up on indignation and jihad.
The Pakistanis might conclude that they need to switch patrons and flip to the Chinese for diplomatic and military support against a common enemy India, and to heck with America and our war on the Taliban and al Qaeda.
And seriously, will Pakistani rulers really believe cutting off our supplies to forces in Afghanistan would mean actual war with the next administration? Cheney on a visit to lay down the law might inspire fear. But Biden? Fear of the mob outside the palace will outweigh Pakistani fear of distant America--an America that they believe might be forced to make concessions to Pakistan just to withdraw our forces from landlocked Afghanistan.
Like so many decisions, what is rational from our point of view isn't what could be rational in their environment. Don't bet the supply lines for 40,000 or more American troops (and 30,000 NATO allies) on the rationality of a Pakistani government under pressure from their own people.
And if India attacks Pakistan because they believe Pakistan is guilty of supporting the Mumbai terror attacks, don't even speak to me of rational Pakistani decision-making abilities.