Pakistan's recent temporary closure of a key supply route for NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan raises fresh questions about whether Pakistan is fully capable of defeating the Pakistani Taliban. Few people doubt the Pakistani government's public commitment to tackle terrorism. However, there are well-documented reports of rogue elements in Pakistan's intelligence services providing material and moral support to the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Taliban attack on NATO fuel trucks that prompted the closure of the supply route underlines the importance for NATO of developing alternative supply routes through Russia and Central Asia. Russia and NATO have a common interest in defeating Islamist jihadi terrorism. Russia is not always aligned with western interests in the region - as its determined stance on Iran indicates, which it may live to regret one day - but it should not be deterred from cooperation with NATO over Afghanistan by its previous military humiliations in that strife-torn country. Russia has a key interest in stabilising the wider Middle East and Central Asia where jihadism is active and gives active succour to Russia's enemies in its own north Caucasus republics.
This attack on a vital supply convoy has underlined that any discussion about security in Afghanistan must take into account the situation in Pakistan. And the situation in Pakistan is not looking too promising right now, as officials in the Obama administration are acknowledging increasingly openly.
The floods that devastated swathes of Pakistan two months ago were an unexpected calamity the country could ill afford. Already beset by a weak central government, hamstrung by a feeble economy and with terrorists operating largely unfettered on its soil, Pakistan now has the overwhelming task of helping the estimated 20 million people who lost their homes and livelihoods in the flooding. For its part, the European Parliament has offered its deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragedy and has called for the EU to intensify humanitarian aid efforts.
Even a wealthy western democracy would struggle to cope on its own with a catastrophe of this magnitude. But for Pakistan, the flooding has not surprisingly proved too much for its government to handle. Indeed, the fact that the army very quickly took responsibility for the immediate aid effort tells us all we need to know about where power in Pakistan really lies. Certainly the restoration of full democratic civilian government under President Asif Ali Zardari has proved to be largely an illusion.