It seems that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry let loose a little bit in an interview with USA Today.
Kerry, who's just returned from Pakistan, said that the Obama administration's plan for the troubled country "is not a real strategy." Saying that Pakistan is "in a moment of peril," he said, "I believe there is not in place yet an adequate policy or plan to deal with it."
Kerry also took issue with the term "Af-Pak," arguing that the governments in question "don't see the linkage."
As USA Today's Ken Delanian notes, "Kerry's comments amounted to one of the most serious criticisms leveled by a Democrat at Obama on foreign policy."
Still, I'm not sure the senator's criticism really hits the mark. For starters, just because Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari don't like a term doesn't mean the situations aren't linked. (My colleague Chris Brose is right, however, that the U.S. government shouldn't be using this shorthand -- it's condescending.)
Second, I disagree with Kerry's assertion that the drone strikes have been such a smashing success. As numerous Pakistani experts emphatically told FP last year, the strikes risk winning the battle against a decreasingly relevant al Qaeda while losing the much broader war against the Taliban and assorted militant groups.
It ought to tell us something that the Pakistani government feels it has to lie to its people about its role in these strikes. It ought to tell us something that even as the CIA keeps plinking bad guys, their ranks keep growing.
UPDATE: According to Frederick Jones, Kerry's spokesman, "Kerry’s comments were very much misconstrued" by USA Today. He didn't dispute the quotes, but stressed that "it's part of an ongoing process and that the details need to be fleshed out." Jones also said that Kerry is very much in favor of linking policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan; he just finds the term "Af-Pak" to be culturally insensitive.