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Can Pakistan help America salvage its Afghan mission?
With Afghanistan in turmoil, the U.S. could use an assist from its prickly South Asian ally. Will Pakistan come through?
Afghan protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans in Kabul: With violent demonstrations continuing in Afghanistan, the U.S. may need to call on its Pakistani allies for assistance.
Afghan protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans in Kabul: With violent demonstrations continuing in Afghanistan, the U.S. may need to call on its Pakistani allies for assistance.
Xinhua Kabul/Xinhua Press/Corbis
T

he violent reaction to the U.S. military's recent Koran burnings in Afghanistan is threatening to undermine American plans to withdraw from the war-ravaged country in 2014. And with relations frayed between the U.S. and Afghan governments, Washington is looking for all the help it can get from neighboring Pakistan, which could, at least theoretically, promote reconciliation in Afghanistan and get Taliban fighters, who have found refuge in Pakistan's remote border region, to put down their guns. Is there any chance the U.S. can count on help from its on-again, off-again ally?

Pakistan just might come through: The U.S. and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of being cozy with the Taliban, says Michael Georgy at Reuters. But recent signs suggest the government in Islamabad is "stepping up support for reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan." Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani says Pakistan is "prepared to do whatever it takes" to help, and last week he urged Taliban leaders to negotiate. That's a first step, and it could signal a real shift in Pakistani policy.
"Pakistan urges Afghan Taliban to enter peace talks"

The Koran fiasco will make Pakistan even less cooperative: Mending ties between Washington and Islamabad was always going to be tricky, says Pakistan's Business Recorder in an editorial. Relations all but broke down after the Osama bin Laden raid last year, not to mention a western air strike last fall that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Now, Pakistanis are as angry as their counterparts in Afghanistan over the Koran burnings. They're likely to be less helpful than ever in pushing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
"Protests in Afghanistan"

Pakistan is actually trying to undermine the U.S.:  Everyone jockeying for power in the region is exploiting the Koran-burning crisis, Bruce Reidel of the Brookings Institution tells the Los Angeles Times. That includes Iran, which is using radio broadcasts to "poison" opinion against the U.S., and Pakistan, which is "stoking the fire and encouraging the Taliban to exploit the Koran issue to weaken NATO," partly as payback for U.S. drone strikes and the bin Laden raid. All the U.S. can do is "let the anger play out and make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Koran burning protests: What should the U.S. do next?"

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