“IT is from here that the new attacks are being plotted as I speak” -- President Obama, addressing cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday. He was referring to the ill-defined border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a region where it is believed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda team conceived and planned the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, and are probably still to be found. In his speech the president returned to the present threat more than once and said it was its continuing existence that distinguishes the Afghanistan war from Vietnam (but what about the threat to the United States of the national dominoes that America believed would fall all round Asia if VIetnam succumbed to the Communists?).

Although the new strategy which President Obama outlined has had a fairly good reception in the United States and elsewhere, there is a general feeling that he has done no more than make the best of the bad job that he inherited one year ago. An immediate and total withdrawal was out of the question for many good reasons so anything else was destined either to be second best or to evade the main issue. The lack of any substantive reference in Tuesday's speech to the situation in Pakistan and how it might be improved comes into the second category; beneath its semi-democratic surface Pakistan is an unstable nation which happens to possess a nuclear armoury.


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