The United States launched its anti-terrorist war in Afghanistan in the name of ‘Enduring Freedom’. The overthrow of the Taliban regime in November 2001 was followed by ambitious international efforts to consolidate security, build democratic government and develop the country economically – all at the same time. Hamid Karzai’s election as president last October suggested that democracy would win, but a recent rise in political violence has raised fears that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are regaining strength.
To some extent this is because Pakistan, America’s second frontline ally, plays host to the extremist groups who have attacked neighbouring Afghanistan and India. Osama bin Laden, who masterminded 11 September, is probably in hiding somewhere in Pakistan. But the US conferred the status of ‘major non-NATO ally’ on Islamabad in June last year and President George Bush regards General Pervez Musharraf as a loyal and steadfast friend.