Hey. Hope you guys are hanging in there. It seems like it's been sort of a rough week for some people. Midwinter can kind of put me in a funk, and it seems like it sort of has that effect on other people as well. Anyway, you Adventurers keep your chins up and try to focus on the fact that spring isn't too far off (and things always seem better in the spring, somehow).
Not a lot new in the last 24 hours. I watched an episode of Frontline last night that was about the resurgence of the Taliban along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Those guys really are a bunch of hardline religious fascists with no tolerance for any behavior that isn't in keeping with their own brand of Muslim fundamentalism. They're intolerant and violent, and they're sheltering Al Qaeda. The real problem is that they're pretty popular among the native people over there (especially in tribal areas), and both Pakistani and Afghan leaders run the risk of alienating their constituencies by taking up arms against the Taliban or its leaders. In fact, many government officials in Pakistan are Taliban sympathizers, and even the Pakistani intelligence service has had to undergo several purges in the attempt to rid itself of Taliban influence. Pakistan's President Musharraf has walked a tightrope for years, pledging allegiance to America in its war on terror, while simultaneously trying to appease the many hardline Muslim militants (many of whom are Taliban sympathizers) who are scattered throughout his government.
The Frontline episode that I watched was first broadcast in October of 2006, and I was wondering how things had changed since that time, and then on my drive in to work today on NPR I heard a report about how the U.S. military is having an increasingly difficult time keeping Afghanistan under control, primarily due to Taliban forces which keep migrating back and forth across the border into Pakistan in order to evade U.S. military units. The Frontline update on their web page reported that in early January our Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, and CIA Director Michael Hayden travelled to Pakistan to try to convince Pakistan's President Musharraf to allow for an increased American presence in Pakistani tribal areas, either through unilateral covert CIA operations or through joint operations with Pakistani security forces. Musharraf is said to have refused, apparently still fearful of the alienating the Taliban and Muslim extremist sympathizers within his own government. The U.S. diplomatic effort is said to have been instigated by the American belief that the Taliban is intensifying its efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government. Given the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto (which is still not really solved, but which is assumed to have been carried out by Muslim hardline extremists), this threat seems like it might not be far from becoming a reality.
Let me tell you how excited I am about the prospect of a destabilized, nuclear-armed Pakistani government falling under Taliban control. Yeah!!!!
Other from watching Frontline last night, I played with Cassidy and Lucy and went to dinner at Hao Hao with Ryan and Jamie. I think I tried to play some Bioshock on the XBox, but the dogs wouldn't leave me alone, so I gave up.