Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Is that it?

I liked President Obama’s Afghan stuff, as far as it went. Reducing American goals and training Afghan security forces makes sense. And reaching out to less extreme Taliban leaders is also worth trying. But I was surprised by how little the president had to offer on the other big problems. Sure, corruption in Afghanistan is ...

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I liked President Obama's Afghan stuff, as far as it went. Reducing American goals and training Afghan security forces makes sense. And reaching out to less extreme Taliban leaders is also worth trying. But I was surprised by how little the president had to offer on the other big problems. Sure, corruption in Afghanistan is easy to denounce, Mr. President, but what are you going to do about it? How are you going to stop the police from shaking down Afghans and so driving them into arms of the Taliban?

Finally, what about the Pakistani military? The saying is that most countries have militaries, while in Pakistan the military has a country.

I liked President Obama’s Afghan stuff, as far as it went. Reducing American goals and training Afghan security forces makes sense. And reaching out to less extreme Taliban leaders is also worth trying. But I was surprised by how little the president had to offer on the other big problems. Sure, corruption in Afghanistan is easy to denounce, Mr. President, but what are you going to do about it? How are you going to stop the police from shaking down Afghans and so driving them into arms of the Taliban?

Finally, what about the Pakistani military? The saying is that most countries have militaries, while in Pakistan the military has a country.

Right now the Pakistani armed forces are part of the problem. Obama gave no indication of how they might be made part of the solution, and that worries me. I know it is difficult to say anything about this publicly — but he should have said something.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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