Putting The "Pak" In Af-Pak

The nation has been waiting for President Obama's decision on Afghanistan since Gen. Stanley McChrystal presented his assessment to the president on August 31, and almost all of the focus has been given to the number of additional troops he'll send, how that meshes with McChrystal's request for 40,000, and what type of mission those troops will pursue. Perhaps that focus has been two narrow: The Washington Post reports today that the Obama administration is offering Pakistan a broader strategic partnership, while warning that its alliances with insurgent groups, believed to have been maintained though Pakistan's intelligence agency over the years, "cannot continue."

The timing is interesting. Just last week, President Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; as India's historic unease about Pakistan's shadowy relationships with insurgent groups in Kashmir was escalated by the Mumbai terrorist attacks, one would think this came up during that meeting.

Just last month, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Pakistan, she issued a fairly stern warning to Pakistan during an interview in Lahore, asserting that al-Qaeda has held a safe haven there since after the 9/11 attacks and that she "find[s] it hard to believe" that Pakistan doesn't know where they are and couldn't get them if they actually wanted to. (Pakistan, by the way, will get $7.5 billion in U.S. aid over the next five years, only if the U.S. deems it to be making progress in rooting out al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.)

When the Obama administration came into office, it soon included Pakistan in its strategic vocabulary surrounding Afghanistan, coining the term "Af-Pak" to define that allegedly more regionally comprehensive outlook.

For the last while, the "Af" side has dominated domestic talk of the new strategy, but it appears the outreach to Pakistan's government is part of the new wave in strategy in dealing with the problem--which extends into Pakistan's border regions, where U.S. drones have been hitting targets. With the president's speech on Afghanistan Tuesday, in which he's expected to announce about 30,000 additional troops and update us on the U.S. mission there, the war is about to enter its Obama era of strategy and thinking. The administration, for its part, hasn't abandoned its original intent to include a focus on Pakistan in that strategy.