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Behind Afghanistan lies Pakistan

The US is wising up about Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban find safe haven.

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Like its towering mountains, Afghanistan looms as a serious security threat, with Taliban attacks on US and NATO forces there rising precipitously. But the road to improvement starts in Pakistan, and the route is as winding as the Khyber Pass highway that connects the two countries.

Al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan's lawless tribal region on the border, reaching pre-9/11 strength. Taliban militants also find safe haven in this remote region and cross regularly into Afghanistan.

This growing hornets' nest poses a risk not only to Afghanistan and NATO forces, but to the world as a whole. Islamist terrorists in the border area are hostile to the newly elected secular government in Pakistan. Remember that Pakistan has the world's second-largest Muslim population and is equipped with nuclear weapons.

Thankfully, Washington is starting to pay more attention to this part of the world. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama visited Afghanistan over the weekend, and last week, Republican candidate John McCain elevated the region's importance by speaking extensively about it. Both recognize the critical role that Pakistan plays.

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