The existence of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan is harder to address. We will be unable to persuade Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which sponsors the Taliban and the Haqqani network, to break ranks with the insurgents in the near term. Instead, we should strive to make the sanctuaries less relevant by solidifying security and governance in Afghanistan. Stabilizing Afghanistan may very well prod Pakistan to cut loose its proxies as a bad bet. In this regard, too, the 2014 deadline is crucial because it shows our staying power to Islamabad.
Whatever the gains in Kandahar and Helmand, there will be no immediate lessening of the violence. Tough fighting is virtually assured next summer as the Taliban tries to claw its way back into these provinces. If it is repulsed, NATO forces will be able to extend the "oil spot" north and east.