Last Thursday, September 30, the President reported to Congress on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Courtesy of the American Federation of Scientists Secrecy News Project, you may now read the report for yourself. It is a 1.25 megabyte download from: http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/wh-afpak.pdf
I hope we will all give the document substantive consideration, right now a comment on process: It is reasonable — especially in a republic — for the executive to engage in discreet and confidential conversations with the legislature. In principle, I have no problem with the practice and, in fact, would prefer to see a more principled pattern of such practice.
In this particular case everyone in the system — White House, Hill, and the Fourth Estate — knew this pdf would eventually be available on the net. It does not advance confidence in our system for this document to be gamed and made available by a non-governmental source. Give advance copies to Congress, fine. But in my judgment this kind of report should have been released by the White House not later than Thursday, October 7.
Monday, October 11 Update
The AfPak report strikes me as a reasonably accurate and professional account of what is happening and not happening in-theater. If its Congressional readers learned anything new, they have not been paying attention. (Which again highlights that such reports ought to be provided by the government to the governed in order to facilitate their consent or dissent.)
The report is operationally focused. There are strategic implications — and rather clear implications — but they are understated or unstated.
In terms of Pakistan, the reader comes away with a sense that anything anyone might claim as true is exquisitely precarious. The political situation is especially surreal. That this warped reality includes the world’s sixth largest military, nuclear weapons, and arguably the core of world terrorism reinforces the sense that Salvador Dali might be more effective than Richard Holbrooke as our AfPak special representative (and, of course, Dali is dead).
A few recent headlines to further complicate the context:
Pakistan’s nuclear arms push angers America — Pakistan has been secretly accelerating the pace of its nuclear weapons programme, infuriating the US which is trying to cap worldwide stocks of fissile material and improve fraught relations with a fragile ally in the Afghanistan war. (More from the Telegraph)
Non-proliferation: A nuclear exchange — More than 100 cold-war era research reactors run on uranium pure enough to be used in a nuclear weapon. But switching to safer fuel isn’t easy. (More from Nature)
Member of AQ worked at six US nuclear plants — A New Jersey man accused of joining Al Qaeda in Yemen spoke openly of militant views while working at American nuclear plants, according to a report by the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that proposes tightening personnel security rules. (More from the New York Times and the NRC IG (redactions))