10.30.2009

Linkages

Reading Russ Feingold, I'm reminded of Robert Kaplan:
In the 1990s, successive democratic Pakistani governments struggled to cope with intensifying social and economic turmoil. Violence was endemic to Karachi and other cities. But even as the Pakistani political elite turned inward, it remained obsessed with the related problems of Afghanistan and energy routes. Anarchy in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal was preventing Pakistan from establishing roads and pipelines to the new oil states of Central Asia—routes that would have helped Islamabad consolidate a vast Muslim rear base for the containment of India. So obsessed was Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government with curbing the chaos in Afghanistan that she and her interior minister, the retired general Naseerullah Babar, conceived of the newly formed Taliban as a solution.
The security and stability of Afghanistan is inextricably bound up with the security of Pakistan.

Having troops in Afghanistan is only as useful as the Western civilians who carry out the backbone of the nation-building, really the capacity-building, mission. Doing "counter-terrorism" is not enough. That's the first step. The way to actually get the country stable is to do an intensive, probably State Department-led, Peace Corps-style, grassroots capacity-building program. And that's where Senator Feingold's minimalist, counter-terrorism only focus goes wrong.