Pakistan identified as biggest foreign policy test
Saeed Shah in Islamabad The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009
Washington's newly appointed special envoy is due to arrive in Islamabad today, as Barack Obama's administration tackles what may turn out to be its greatest foreign policy challenge: a nuclear-armed country hurtling towards chaos.
According to Obama's aides, Pakistan is the nation that really "scares" him. The country is threatened by a growing Islamist insurgency, economic collapse and a crisis of governance as it struggles to establish democratic rule. The Obama administration believes Pakistan is key to its objectives of pacifying Afghanistan and going after al-Qaida and has appointed a pugnacious diplomatic troubleshooter, Richard Holbrooke, as a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We often call this situation Afpak," said Holbrooke at a conference in Munich yesterday, before flying to Islamabad. "There will be more focus on Pakistan," he said. "A new and fragile democracy has emerged ... but the situation in Pakistan requires attention and sympathy."
Leaks of a US military review, conducted under David Petraeus, the American general in charge of the region, say he has concluded that Pakistan, not Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran, is the most urgent foreign policy issue facing Obama.
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