Yet the effect may be felt most keenly in Pakistan. A video released on January 9th appeared to show the bomber, a Jordanian doctor named Humam Khalil Abu Malil al-Balawi, delivering his farewell message beside the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud.
It was probably filmed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, 16km (10 miles) from Khost, where Mr Balawi blew himself up inside an American army base. He had gone there, under the aegis of Jordan’s main intelligence agency, to meet a high-level CIA delegation that expected him to provide information on al-Qaeda fugitives. Many are believed to be in North Waziristan, as is Mr Mehsud, who fled his former headquarters in nearby South Waziristan after the Pakistani army attacked it in October. North Waziristan is largely controlled by other Pakistani and Afghan militants, including Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan jihadist and former ally of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who runs a cross-border fief which also includes Khost.
For Mr Mehsud, who took over the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban last year after Baitullah Mehsud was killed by an American drone attack, the video is an obvious boost. Appalled by its methods—including a suicide-bombing spree that claimed some 1,300 lives last year—many once-sympathetic Pakistanis have turned against the group. This has emboldened the army to launch a series of crushing offensives against it, most recently in South Waziristan. By associating himself with the jihad in Afghanistan, about which Pakistanis feel more ambivalent, Mr Mehsud may hope to restore his image. Speaking confident English, in the video Dr al-Balawi links his impending martyrdom to the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, as “the first of the revenge operations against the Americans and their drone teams outside the Pakistani borders”.
This is likely to increase pressure on Pakistan’s army, especially from America, to continue its assault into North Waziristan. It has hitherto been reluctant to do this, for two reasons. First, its 120,000-odd troops along the north-west frontier are already hard-pressed and, at a time of heightened tension with India, it is loth to move in many reinforcements from its eastern border. Second, it does not want to make fresh enemies of Afghan—or Afghanistan-focused—militants in North Waziristan, including Mr Haqqani, who have previously had no quarrel with Pakistan, and through whom it may wish to restore its former influence in Afghanistan.
Yet the distinction between these militant camps now looks more blurred, given a strong possibility that Mr Haqqani, as well as Mr Mehsud, was involved in Dr Balawi’s stunt. That could further deter the army from moving into North Waziristan. It might prefer, for example, to strike the fugitive Pakistani Taliban there using American drone attacks. There have been several since the blast in Khost. Yet it seems more likely that the blurring of militant groups will persuade the army that an offensive in North Waziristan is unavoidable. According to high-placed Pakistanis, the army, flushed by its recent successes, has been mulling such a move for some time.
Turning on Mr Haqqani and other Pakistan-based militants would not quell the insurgency in Afghanistan. First launched from Pakistan, that is now largely an Afghan affair. But denying a Pakistani refuge to Mr Haqqani, the prime suspect in all suicide-bombing in Afghanistan, would still be a big boost to the NATO-led effort.-the economist