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Monday, February 23, 2009


I was slow.  I didn't get it right away.  AFPAK is apparently the new Washington term for the combined problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Or so says Columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post.  In his article "A Three-Pronged Bet on 'AFPAK'" he talks to the problems facing the United States in that region.

(I was going to write "facing the Obama Administration," but while those are the folks wrestling with this at this time, in fact, it is a problem for all of us.  We are the People of the United States and with either success or failure the economic and human costs will be paid by us.  Usually success incurs fewer costs.)

Mr Ignatius:
But at the same time, he has ordered a strategy review to make sure the United States isn't marching blindly into what historians call "the graveyard of empires."
Even as 17,000 additional troops deploy to Afghanistan.  It isn't like there weren't folks out there saying that we needed to ask ourselves what the real question was.  But, making a strategic assessment takes time and the troops are needed now.

Here is the gist of it:
The Obama team's broad goal for AFPAK is a three-way strategic engagement to fight a common enemy.  This means billions in economic aid for a collapsing Pakistani economy; it means a new focus on fighting corruption in Afghanistan; and it may mean distancing the United States from President Hamid Karzai in advance of Afghanistan's presidential elections in August.  (Complicating the situation is the fact that Karzai's legal mandate may expire in May.)
The complicating factors are long term concern about India, the recent bombings in Mumbai and the issue of who has control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.  This last issue is particularly troubling, in that it has implications that could travel to the United States in the form of a stolen nuclear weapon.  It is my hope that the United States has quietly given Pakistan technology to allow them to install Permissive Action Links on their nuclear weapons.  These items won't prevent their being stolen or even rebuilt to detonate, but would prevent their immediate use after being pilfered.  That would buy us time to hunt for them.

What is going on in AFPAK is important to our future.  We should all be paying attention.

Regards  --  Cliff

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