President Obama's Toughest Challenge Abroad?

Now the hard part begins, and there may be no harder spot on the planet for President Barack Obama than Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The unreliable border between those two countries will help determine whether some of the tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan will come home in body bags; whether al Qaeda can launch another attack; and whether the Taliban can continue to destabilize both countries economically and politically.

As the U.S. military begins to double down in Afghanistan, adding as many as 30,000 troops to the 32,000 already there, much of Obama's attention will be on Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, seven mostly lawless districts along the border.

There, a coalition of Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, and criminals have helped make the last year-and-a-half the most violent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan's recent history.

In Afghanistan, more civilians and troops died last year than in any year since the war began. In Pakistan, militants have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers, sent suicide attackers into the heart of Pakistan's cities, and spread unprecedented fear -- conditions that have helped cripple the once growing Pakistani economy to the point of near default.

The problem is not a purely military one, analysts here insist. It is as much, if not more, about hearts and minds as it is about targeting al Qaeda's leaders with CIA unmanned predator drones.

"In the 80s, every Pashtun was with you. You helped make every Pashtun a mujahedeen against the Soviets," said Ayaz Wazir, a former Pakistani envoy to Afghanistan, referring to Pakistan and the U.S. successfully mobilizing much of Pakistani society against the Soviet occupation. "But today, every Pashtun is against you, because you are doing nothing but killing. You have to change that."

Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

That is something that Vice President Joe Biden has acknowledged, sponsoring a bill last year that would triple non-military aid to Pakistan, giving $15 billion over the next 10 years. Much of that money would go toward developing the tribal areas, trying to create jobs and improve education.

That bill could go a long way toward eliminating widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan today, a feeling that has helped prevent Pakistanis from opposing the Taliban.

In a rare interview last year, the deputy U.S. ambassador in Pakistan, Gerald Feierstein, said there had been an overemphasis on the military aspects of the war on terror.

"Until we give the people in that region alternative visions for themselves and for their children, there is always going to be this tilt toward these extremists' messages," he said.

"What we need to do is give people an alternative narrative for hope for the future. And that's really much more important in terms of how we're ultimately going to achieve success in that part of the world than anything we're going to do in terms of kinetic activity."

But the U.S. also says it needs the more than 100,000 Pakistani troops stationed in the tribal areas to effectively battle the Taliban.

And the frontline troops there are Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers, who are not as well equipped -- and possibly not as motivated -- as they need to be to defeat a homegrown Islamic insurgency.

The Frontier Corps is "really not up to the task, because people in that force have been quitting their jobs and they have been surrendering to the Taliban," noted Rahimullah Yusufzai, an ABC News consultant and the Peshawar editor of The News International newspaper.

And "they haven't been trained to fight in their own country against their own people," he continued. "Primarily, they're fighting Pakistani militants. And if you take the Frontier Corps, these are all Pashtuns, belonging to the tribes. It's not easy for them to make up their own mind and fight their own people."

Pakistan's military insists the motivation is there, but admits it needs help -- more helicopters, more sophisticated communications equipment, and more training.

Training Against the Taliban

But while the United States has tried to train the Pakistani army and shift its focus from conventional warfare (against India) toward counterinsurgency (against the Taliban), the military has resisted, instead restricting American trainers' access to the Frontier Corps troops who were never trained to fight this kind of battle.

Part of the solution, Obama and his aides have said, is looking at the problem regionally. That policy would include engaging with Iran, trying to cool India-Pakistan tensions, and creating a massive development zone across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"You need a comprehensive policy inside Afghanistan which combines a military surge along with a developmental and reconstruction surge, and at the same time, you need a regional policy which brings the neighbors together," said Ahmed Rashid, the author of "Descent into Chaos."

"The regional powers need to become part of a settlement rather than trying to angle and support proxies inside Afghanistan."

And that regional, diplomatic approach, analysts here say, has a much better chance of success than one that relies mostly on the military.

"Your presence is welcome," said retired Pakistani Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a former defense secretary, referring to the U.S. "But you have to emphasize more on nation building and social uplift of the people, rather than military. Because I don't think with military you can entirely succeed."