Af/Pak and the Cooler

Fresh off news that the Pentagon is boosting troop levels in Afghanistan ahead of the perennial spring offensive, Joe Klein of Time thinks he’s figured out how to “finish the job.” The key is cold storage. And replacing special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, who recently passed away (and was one of Klein’s good friends). But getting refrigeration facilities in place for Afghan farmers to store their crops—which would hopefully tamp down the need to grow opium poppies—is “a litmus test for the larger questions” because, as U.S. troops begin to withdrawal over the next couple years, infrastructure will need to be left behind. And building cold-storage facilities signifies that the coalition’s ability to put in place important infrastructural support such as an electrical grid and transportation facilities. (Klein reports Holbrooke “was obsessed” with refrigeration.) But Bernard Finel worries that “something like the worst case scenario has been achieved,” but fears there’s little hope of changing America’s level of involvement.

The assassination of Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer by a rogue security guard is producing another round of worrying over Pakistan as a potential failed state. New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall reports that the struggle between “secular and religious forces . . . has grown nastier than ever.” TNI author and online contributor Ahmed Rashid tells her that “polarization is “severe,” but there is also a “very large silent majority who are not extremist.” Gall also notes that Taseer “pumped more than 20 rounds into Mr. Taseer’s back” but was not shot at by any other members of the governor’s security team “raising questions about whether any of the others knew of his plans.” The Wall Street Journal is reporting that an investigation is under way into the rest of the security guards, especially since the killer had apparently told people about his plans beforehand.

Matthew Kaminski, writing from Lahore, has an op-ed in the Journal on the “troubled heart of Pakistan.” He points out that five hundred Pakistani religious leaders issued a statement before Taseer’s funeral praising the assassin and urging “Muslims not to mourn” the governor’s death. Kaminski sees a “larger national shift” at work: the increasing ties between politics and religion, which, he says, is not exactly what the “urbane,” tweed-jacket-wearing, whiskey-drinking founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Jinnah, exactly had in mind.