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New ways to quell Al Qaeda?

Pakistan's new leaders go soft with jihadists. But that takes hard tactics to pull off.

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Americans can hardly complain that Pakistan is on the verge of a deal with jihadists. The US has already done a similar deal with Iraqi Sunni terrorists. In both cases, a prime goal is simply to isolate Al Qaeda.

In Iraq, the US military's payoffs of radical Sunni leaders since 2005 have largely achieved that aim. The former terrorists now openly oppose Al Qaeda, which appears to be on the run in Sunni areas.

In Pakistan, the stakes are even higher, with a new government trying to strike a pact with the local Taliban. Osama bin Laden probably operates somewhere along the 350-mile border, working in cahoots with Taliban terrorists from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If Al Qaeda is planning another 9/11-style attack, that area is the launching pad.

Negotiating with one type of terrorist in order to isolate more-lethal terrorists has become a necessary but distasteful part of the post-Sept. 11 world. While President Bush has had to back into such a hold-your-nose tactic in Iraq, one issue in the Democratic primaries is whether the US should often negotiate with its enemies, such as Iran. Barack Obama says he would, and events unfolding in Pakistan serve as a current test case of that let's-talk approach.

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