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Reidel's Role

In this afternoon's gaggle, Robert Gibbs announced that Obama has asked the former CIA analyst Bruce Reidel to take a 60-day leave from the Brookings Institution, where he now works, in order to chair an interagency policy review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reidel was a campaign adviser to Obama, but he told the NYT late last year that he had no interest in returning to government. In that same NYT interview, Reidel, who's been a harsh critic of Musharraf, was fairly bullish on the current Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari.

Some of Reidel's other thoughts on Pakistan can be gleaned from this WaPo review he did last September of Tariq Ali's The Duel :

By Ali's account, virtually every institution of the U.S. foreign policy elite has been complicit in Pakistan's problems. My employers of the past three decades, the CIA and the Brookings Institution, get their share of blame. So do both of the current presidential candidates: Barack Obama for pledging to strike al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan unilaterally if Pakistan won't help, and John McCain for backing Bush's unquestioning support for Musharraf. Ali is equally critical of Pakistan's civilian politicians who, in his view, have misruled and robbed the country for their own gain during intervals between the generals. Even the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto receives harsh criticism for her tolerance of corruption and her dynastic ambitions. 


Whoever wins the U.S. presidential election will have to deal with the volatile mix that is today's Pakistan. "The Duel" makes a strong case that the United States should back Pakistan's civilian leadership, flawed as it is, in an effort to build a modern Islamic democracy. That will require much more economic aid, creative diplomacy to ease tensions with Afghanistan and India, straight talk about ending Pakistan's ties to terrorism, and patience. It will take time to recover from the Bush-Musharraf legacy, but we cannot afford a failed state in Pakistan, especially one that bears the label Made in the U.S.A.

And here are some of Reidel's thoughts on Afghanistan, which he penned for the NYT last month:

We should seek more troops from our NATO allies but also from Muslim allies like Morocco and Indonesia that have a common interest in defeating Al Qaeda. It can be done; already the United Arab Emirates has a few hundred troops in Afghanistan.

More troops must be accompanied by rapid economic development, especially road construction. Since 2001, 2,000 miles of road have been built or repaired but the Kabul government projects a need to build 11,000 miles more to bring security and modest prosperity to the country. Again it can be done; India has just finished a model $1 billion road project in the southwest opening a highway to link landlocked Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean via Iran.

The additional troops also need to train and build a stronger Afghan military. In the 1980s, Afghanistan had an army three times larger and an air force 10 times larger than what seven years of erratic Bush effort has produced. An open-ended large foreign military presence in Afghanistan is a mistake in a country with a history of defeating foreign invaders. Our goal should be a rapid reversal of the Taliban’s fortunes followed by turning responsibility over to a trained and equipped Afghan security force.

All in all, it would seem that Reidel's assignment is just another indication that the Obama administration is leaning away from Karzai and toward Zardari. 

--Jason Zengerle