Our guest blogger is Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Sen. John McCain’s speech yesterday attracted a lot of media attention for what he said about Iraq –but it is what he DIDN’T say on Afghanistan and Pakistan that should worry most Americans.
Conservatives like McCain have demonstrated that they may be strong on rhetoric but actually lacking in clear ideas on how to truly tackle the continued threat posed by the global Al Qaeda movement.
As the threat from Al Qaeda becomes more diffuse, U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies have reached a strikingly unanimous conclusion that the core organizational leadership has reformed itself. Its location? Pakistan.
Al Qaeda has, in the words of the Director for National Intelligence’s February 2008 Annual Threat Assessment, “retained or regenerated key elements of its capability, including top leadership, operational mid-level lieutenants, and de facto safe haven in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or the FATA.” The CIA, State Department, and Joint Chiefs of Staff have all echoed this warning in recent months. The threat is not exclusive to America: terror plots in Denmark, Germany, and Spain, as well as a score of attacks within Pakistan itself, have all been traced back to the FATA.
If Pakistan represents the center of gravity in the fight against Al Qaeda, you would not be able to tell it from any policies put forth by a conservative political establishment still fixated on Iraq. As Congress’ independent non-partisan investigatory body, the Government Accountability Office, recently concluded, the Bush administration still lacks a unified strategy for dealing with the FATA that incorporates all elements of U.S. national power.
And for most of Bush’s tenure in office, a loyal Congress has abdicated any responsibility for holding the administration accountable for this. In its two years from 2005-2006, the 109th Congress managed to hold just one single hearing on Pakistan in all the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees of both the House and Senate combined. Since the shift in power that brought more progressives into the 110th Congress, there have been at least fifteen congressional hearings on Pakistan alone.
McCain, the presumptive leader of the American conservative movement, simply follows in the path of the Bush administration’s lack of attention to what is one of the most pressing national security challenges. Read more