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Winning the battle, losing the war?

I see that senior U.S. counterterrorism officials are bragging to NPR that al Qaeda is getting whipped in the rural wilds of Pakistan: CIA-directed airstrikes against al-Qaida leaders and facilities in Pakistan over the past six to nine months have been so successful, according to senior U.S. officials, that it is now possible to foresee ...

I see that senior U.S. counterterrorism officials are bragging to NPR that al Qaeda is getting whipped in the rural wilds of Pakistan:

CIA-directed airstrikes against al-Qaida leaders and facilities in Pakistan over the past six to nine months have been so successful, according to senior U.S. officials, that it is now possible to foresee a "complete al-Qaida defeat" in the mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan.

The officials say the terrorist network’s leadership cadre has been "decimated," with up to a dozen senior and midlevel operatives killed as a result of the strikes and the remaining leaders reeling from the repeated attacks.

"The enemy is really, really struggling," says one senior U.S. counterterrorism official. "These attacks have produced the broadest, deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaida senior leadership that we’ve seen in several years." […]

"In the past, you could take out the No. 3 al-Qaida leader, and No. 4 just moved up to take his place," says one official. "Well, if you take out No. 3, No. 4 and then 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, it suddenly becomes a lot more difficult to revive the leadership cadre."

If you take these claims at face value, it’s a pretty impressive achievement.

But here’s the problem: At the same time as al Qaeda appears to be getting its collective ass kicked, native Pakistani and Afghan militants appear to be getting stronger, not weaker, just as Pakistani analysts have been warning for months.

Just today, militants in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency cut the chief supply route to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Obama team appears to be shocked at how bad the situation in the region has gotten. Fareed Zakaria is talking about Obama’s Vietnam. And in what is either desperation or brilliant diplomacy, NATO is reportedly considering turning to Iran — Iran! — for logistical help.

Is this victory?

UPDATE: John McCreary, of NightWatch, comments on the Iran story:

Iran and Pakistan have a common interest in combating extremists, and they can improve the situation in their region by enhancing political and economic ties, according to Fars news agency today, citing Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Head of Iran’s Expediency Council. Iranian-Pakistani cooperation is the most vital issue in resolving the Afghanistan situation, Rafsanjani said, and foreign forces there cannot fight extremists without the partnership of those two countries. Cooperation on the exchange and supply of energy is the best area for Iranian-Pakistani relations, he added. Rafsanjani made the comments at a meeting with Mohammad Bakhsh Abbasi, the new Pakistani ambassador to Iran.

Rafsanjani made a decent point about the need for partnership with adjacent countries in stabilizing Afghanistan. The significance is that he seems to be offering it. Iran, for example, has not dismissed or discouraged media speculation or the NATO suggestion that Iran could become an alternate supply route for international forces in Afghanistan.

Naturally, Rafsanjani did not mention Iran’s terms. Iran always has terms.

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