- By Christian BroseChristian Brose is a senior editor at Foreign Policy. He served as chief speechwriter and policy advisor for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005 to 2008, and as speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2004 to 2005.
By Christian Brose
One thing that’s struck me in the recent debate about Afghanistan and Pakistan is how the snazzy shorthand "Af-Pak" has so quickly become a staple of everyone’s vocabulary. So much so, in fact, that Obama, Biden, Clinton, et al are even referring to it publicly. Heck, in Munich last weekend, Ambassador Holbrooke spoke of Af-Pak while sitting next to the Afghan national security advisor and the Pakistani foreign minister.
Now, don’t get me wrong: The two challenges are linked. You can’t solve either problem in isolation. The Durand line means nothing to our enemies. Etc, etc. I get it.
But it’s one thing for Af-Pak to be the internal shorthand of a policy review. It’s quite another to make it the official public line of our government. It’s insulting and condescending. Not to mention totally unhelpful. I can think of no better way to convince two very suspicious peoples, not to mention myriad others elsewhere, that America really does want to violate their sovereignty and redraw their borders than to adopt the rhetoric of Gertrude Bell.
The Clinton administration used to speak endlessly of "Indo-Pak." It was the same idea: to convey how linked the issues of those two countries were. Needless to say, after that whole partition business, rhetorically stitching these two countries back together again didn’t make us a lot of new friends in Delhi and Islamabad. The Bush administration then spent eight years working, as we used to say, to "de-hyphenate" the U.S. relationships with India and Pakistan: to deal with each country on its own terms. This was a much-overlooked success — the fact that the United States improved its relationships with two bitter historical enemies at the same time.
Thankfully, "Indo-Pak" has been buried, never to be resurrected. But now we have "Af-Pak." What is it with these people?