Pakistan Pursues Two-Track Approach to Taliban - Matthew Rosenberg and Zahid Hussain, Wall Street Journal.
Pakistan resumed peace talks with the Taliban on Friday, while its military reported gains in a fourth day of heavy fighting against militants dug in along mountain ridges 70 miles from the capital. The two tracks underscore the deep ambivalence of many Pakistanis who would like to see peace succeed - even as Islamabad tries to contain the Taliban with military force because a just-signed peace deal was broken. The approach also raises questions about Pakistan's willingness to heed US pressure for an all-out offensive against the Taliban, despite the military moves of the past few days.
In Pakistan, US Courts Leader of Opposition - Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times.
As American confidence in the Pakistani government wanes, the Obama administration is reaching out more directly than before to Nawaz Sharif, the chief rival of Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, administration officials said Friday. American officials have long held Mr. Sharif at arm’s length because of his close ties to Islamists in Pakistan, but some Obama administration officials now say those ties could be useful in helping Mr. Zardari’s government to confront the stiffening challenge by Taliban insurgents. The move reflects the heightened concern in the Obama administration about the survivability of the Zardari government. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the United States Central Command, has said in private meetings in Washington that Pakistan’s government is increasingly vulnerable, according to administration officials.
US Faces Iraq-like Spending Problems in Afghanistan - Gordon Lubold, Christian Science Monitor.
The US government is pouring vast amounts of new resources into Afghanistan for security and reconstruction projects. But it's running the risk of repeating some of the same mistakes it made in Iraq where government auditors have said it wasted billions of dollars. The US record on reconstruction spending in Iraq continues to be less than stellar, lawmakers complain, raising fears that US spending in Afghanistan could be plagued by the same kinds of excess and lack of accountability. "I just hope that you will have a renewed effort to put a magnifying glass on these contractors and the amount of money that's going out because there is unbelievable abuse in waste and yes, fraud," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota told Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Senate panel hearing Thursday. "We just have to lace it up and stop."