The breaking news that a car bomb has killed at least 41 people in northwest Pakistan gives renewed currency to the question Vice President Joe Biden poses in the scene that opens a new Newsweek story: “Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we’re spending in Pakistan, we’re spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?”
If that sounds like a rhetorical question, it’s because it is. Biden, according to Newsweek, wants to move a step beyond the current consensus that the U.S. cannot succeed in Afghanistan without also finding solutions in Pakistan. The shorthand for this idea is “AfPak.” Or it has been.
Newsweek says Biden “wants to tilt the administration’s efforts more toward Pakistan (to ‘make the problem PakAf, not AfPak’), reasoning that Al Qaeda — the real threat to the United States — is hiding out not in Afghanistan but in nuclear-armed Pakistan.”
The New York Times report on today’s car-bomb attack in Pakistan’s Swat Valley notes, “The Pakistani military had declared the valley cleared of militants after an offensive this summer and announced that the Taliban were a shattered force.”
But last month Haider Ali Hussein Mullick of the U.S. Joint Special Operations University warned that amid “multiplying radical madrassas and training camps run by Taliban allies, the Pakistani police, civilian intelligence, and judicial institutions are barely holding on.”
Writing over the summer in Foreign Affairs, Mullick warned that only “with long-term U.S. support will Pakistan’s counterinsurgency strategy be able to stabilize the region.”
This seems to be part of what Vice President Biden has in mind when he questions why Americia is spending $65 billion in Afghanistan this year and $2.25 billion in Pakistan.