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Why Pakistan is the perfect nightmare

When Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency late Saturday night over White House objections, he cited his need to combat growing extremism in Pakistan. And indeed, pro-Taliban militants, Islamist sympathizers, and straight-up terrorists are on the march in a country with a violent history of coups, political instability, and... nuclear weapons.

Pakistani officials such as Ambassador to the U.S. Mahmud Ali Durrani, whom we interviewed about the 2007 Failed States Index (Pakistan ranks 12th), will tell you that the nukes are safely under lock and key. Nothing to worry about! A.Q. Khan is under control!

But insiders with deep experience at the top levels of the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus are worried. In FP's September/October issue, we published our third Terrorism Index in partnership with the Center for American Progress. Nearly three quarters of the more than 100 U.S. foreign-policy experts we surveyed said that Pakistan is the country most likely to transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists:

Before he declared martial law, Musharraf's approval rating had cratered at 21 percent. So, let's see here... We've got rising militancy and a war in neighboring Afghanistan, a hugely unpopular president, multiple insurgencies, and a nuclear state with a history of nuclear proliferation. Some old Iran hands are saying the present situation in Pakistan even reminds them of the last days of the Shah. This could get much, much worse before it gets better.

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State Department officials sound off on Embassy Baghdad

In this post last Friday, we asked U.S. foreign service officers to send their thoughts on Embassy Baghdad and the possibility that they might be forcibly deployed there. A couple of the responses we've received thus far are posted below. And we'd like to hear more. E-mail us with your views.

I have mixed feelings on the directed assignments to Iraq. I believe fundamentally in worldwide availability and in serving at hard-to fill and hardship posts.... I'm not afraid of danger -- I served two years in Pakistan. I accepted the daily risk of a terrorist attack on my home, office or vehicle because I thought our mission there was important and my work made a difference....

So why haven't I volunteered yet? For starters, I'm not an Arabic speaker. I have no desire to learn Arabic, and that comes from my impressions of how women are treated in the Arab world.... I've served in three other Muslim countries and found meaningful ways to promote  U.S. policy and programs, but I'm just not interested in learning Arabic unless I am told I have to.

However, had I been on the list of Prime Candidates, I would have contacted my CDO [Career Development Officer] and taken my assignment. Immediately. Without all the fuss. I think the "death sentence" comment was a bit dramatic.  We haven't lost diplomats in Iraq (versus six FS deaths in Karachi in the last decade-- and I would happily serve in Karachi).... Worldwide availability means worldwide, and if the Secretary deems this a policy priority, we signed up to support that mission.

And the second: 

I have twice volunteered for Iraq Service, but not been selected.... It is pointless to argue whether or not the United States should be in Iraq; we are there and must be constructive if possible.... In my opinion, Ambassador Crocker's staffing requests are absurd and purely based on the politics of looking like you are trying. I do not believe there is enough work -- that can feasibly be accomplished -- for 40 mid-level political, economic, and public affairs officers at Embassy Baghdad....

The Secretary has failed to bring our Service along with her. She was quoted as being disappointed with the staff in Baghdad after a trip there. She calls on the service, on Embassies around the world, to make sacrifices to give the Administration's adventure in Iraq a prayer of succeeding. But at the same time she demonstrates neither the courage nor the effort to seek adequate resources -- not before from a Republican Congress, and not now with Democrats....

The Foreign Service has been painted into a corner, and watch what happens next: we will be again criticized as unpatriotic elitist cowards.... We will come out looking lousy, even if only because we did not sign up, get trained, prepare, or develop skills to serve in a war zone. Perhaps it is giving the Secretary and [Director General Harry Thomas] too much credit to suggest this is done on purpose; to throw the Foreign Service under the bus.... It was particularly disgraceful when DG Thomas asked about a time when "88 percent of people thought slavery was fine." At a minimum, this official should never speak in public if he cannot stay near the message. His defensiveness before the "Human Resources" he allegedly manages suggests that his first priority is policy. Not people. The contrast to Secretary Powell's time, when we were his "troops," is stunning.

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