Bruce Riedel joined Council on Foreign Relations Consulting Editor Bernard Gwertzman to discuss obstacles facing new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.
GWERTZMAN: With Richard Holbrooke being named the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, what’s going on in that part of the world? When Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan, was inaugurated last year, he invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the inauguration. Is there better coordination between the two countries?
RIEDEL: The good news is that the relationship between President Zardari and President Karzai is a fairly good one, and the two of them are comfortable working with each other. That has yet to translate, though, into a real productive relationship along the border. It’s an opening, certainly, that we should exploit. The inheritance that Ambassador Holbrooke gets, though, on the whole is pretty dim and dismal. The war in Afghanistan is going badly, the southern half of the country is increasingly in chaos, and the Taliban is encroaching more and more frequently into Kabul and the surrounding provinces. And in Pakistan, the jihadist Frankenstein monster that was created by the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence service is now increasingly turning on its creators. It’s trying to take over the laboratory.
At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?