Quetta serves as a place of rest and refuge for Taliban fighters between battles, a funneling point for cash and armaments, a fertile recruiting ground and a sometime meeting point for the group's fugitive leaders, say aid workers, local officials, diplomats and others.
"Everybody is here," said Mahmood Khan Achakzai, a Quetta-based member of Pakistan's National Assembly, describing the routine comings and goings of senior Taliban commanders in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
Pakistan is our supposed "ally" in the "war on terror", but the Pakistani government is divided between those who would drive the militants out, and those who welcome them with open arms (either out of sympathy or out of their usefulness in meddling in Afghan politics.) We lack the political influence to force Pakistan to drive them out (if Pakistan could ever do so in the first place) and it's highly unlikely that we will ever really be able to get at them in their refuges in Pakistan. But we also lack the forces to prevent them from easily coming and going into Afghanistan, and that is something we could do something about, though of course not until well after a drastic scale-down in Iraq. When that time might come, and whether it can come soon enough to save Afghanistain, is of course unknown.