Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

“Pakistan on the Brink”

That’s the title of a good piece in the new edition in the New York Review of Books by Ahmed Rashid, one of my proven providers. Like anything Rashid writes, it is worth reading. But two things especially struck me. First, I’ve been more optimistic about Afghanistan than about Pakistan, but haven’t really been able ...

585460_090529_ricksg2.jpg
585460_090529_ricksg2.jpg

That's the title of a good piece in the new edition in the New York Review of Books by Ahmed Rashid, one of my proven providers.

Like anything Rashid writes, it is worth reading. But two things especially struck me. First, I've been more optimistic about Afghanistan than about Pakistan, but haven't really been able to articulate why. Rashid does it well. Afghanistan, he notes, has a weak and unpopular state, but is backed by the U.S. and NATO. Also, Afghans have a national identity and don't want to see the country broken up. Most importantly, they've tasted Taliban rule, and many hated it. In Pakistan, by contrast, he says, "there is no such broad national identity or unity." Among Pakistani officials, he says, "The sense of unrealism is widespread."

That’s the title of a good piece in the new edition in the New York Review of Books by Ahmed Rashid, one of my proven providers.

Like anything Rashid writes, it is worth reading. But two things especially struck me. First, I’ve been more optimistic about Afghanistan than about Pakistan, but haven’t really been able to articulate why. Rashid does it well. Afghanistan, he notes, has a weak and unpopular state, but is backed by the U.S. and NATO. Also, Afghans have a national identity and don’t want to see the country broken up. Most importantly, they’ve tasted Taliban rule, and many hated it. In Pakistan, by contrast, he says, “there is no such broad national identity or unity.” Among Pakistani officials, he says, “The sense of unrealism is widespread.”

Second, the next time a Pakistani official assures us that his army can carry out a counterinsurgency campaign, he should be asked about this observation of Rashid’s:

. . . the army and the government never protected the Pushtun tribal chiefs and leaders who were pro-government-some three hundred have had their throats slit by the Taliban in the FATA, and the rest have fled.”

TARIQ MAHMOOD/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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