Under the Influence: Schooled in State-Building

Under the Influence: Schooled in State-Building

The top item at President Barack Obama's two-day mini-summit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari at the White House this week will be "cooperation." The agenda is also likely to include a pile of other challenges now facing South Asia -- like the 40 percent spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year, the popular backlash in Pakistan against the United States' use of drone missile attacks, and the floor-to-ceiling corruption that pervades President Karzai's government.

With all that to talk about, maybe the summit should last the whole week. Because the three men would do well to devote another day to discussing state-building.

Obama's "surge" in Afghanistan initially included hundreds more civilians, along with an additional 21,000 troops. As soldiers battled Taliban factions and the 82nd Airborne trained Afghan security forces, U.S. civilians were to work on state-building projects. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday referred to the U.S. "taking the lead on security and stability operations," the latter referred to the state-building part. Only now, soldiers will be doing the state-building too, because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is filling the posts initially intended for civilians with military reservists.

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