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 ...

587393_090327_85660320vvvv2.jpg
587393_090327_85660320vvvv2.jpg

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

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.