Monday, April 23, 2012

In Afghanistan to deal with Pakistan

At long last, the United States and Afghanistan have reached an agreement covering the withdrawal of combat troops and the post-combat relationship. Details are sketchy, and I hope we can avoid a politically-motivated fight between Republican "why isn't it better?" and Democratic "why should we continue to give so much aid?" complaints. I think the real significance is what Spencer Ackerman sees: the agreement serves two purposes -- to protect against a resurgence of al Qaeda, but more importantly, to allow a U.S. military presence to deal with threats inside Pakistan.

I've long believed that the strongest reason for military action in Afghanistan is to safeguard U.S. interests involving Pakistan. That's the argument Richard Holbrooke made early in the Obama administration, and I find it still persuasive. So I hope that public discussion of the new agreement keeps that context in mind.

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