(CounterPunch, May 6, 2009)
President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan is this week on his first visit to the United States since coming to office. It comes at a critical time for Pakistan and for America’s relations with that nuclear-armed, but failing, country in South Asia. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s failed neighbor, is also in Washington for trilateral meetings with President Obama and other leading figures in the administration.
Recent escalation of violence in Pakistan has brought grim warnings from senior American officials in Washington about the viability of the Pakistani state. A month ago, General David Petraeus, the top military commander in the region, testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘militant extremists could literally take down the Pakistani state’ if left unchallenged. On the same day, a senior Pentagon official, Michele Flournoy, warned of higher US casualties in Afghanistan in the coming year. And Admiral Eric Olson, chief of America’s special operations commandos, described the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as ‘increasingly dire’. According to one report, General Petraeus has privately told the White House that the administration has as little time as two weeks to determine its future course of action in Pakistan as the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari struggles against an insurgency that is growing alarmingly. More