Biden Right on AfPak
Ariana Huffington has generated quite a bit of buzz for her unlikely-to-be-taken suggestion that Vice President Biden resign in protest if President Obama sends more troops to Afghanistan. The cuteness of the suggestion has unfortunately overshadowed the opening paragraph in Holly Bailey and Evan Thomas’ Newsweek piece on “A Day in the Life of Joe Biden” (HTML title: “Joe Biden, White House Truth Teller”):
Joe Biden had a question. During a long Sunday meeting with President Obama and top national-security advisers on Sept. 13, the VP interjected, “Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?” Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. “And how much will we spend on Pakistan?” Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. “Well, by my calculations that’s a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we’re spending in Pakistan, we’re spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?” The White House Situation Room fell silent. But the questions had their desired effect: those gathered began putting more thought into Pakistan as the key theater in the region.
As I explain in my New Atlanticist essay “Strategic Balance in AfPak,” Biden’s got a point.