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Reporting From Pakistan and Afghanistan

Interviewees: Kim Barker, 2009-2010 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Kathy Gannon, Special Correspondent, Associated Press; 2003-2004 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
October 7, 2009

The Obama administration has identified Afghanistan and Pakistan--the "Af-Pak" theater--and their struggles with militancy as top priorities in U.S. efforts to confront terrorist threats. Kathy Gannon and Kim Barker, journalists who have extensively covered South Asia, say the intensifying focus on the region has stirred up resentments and has failed to dislodge some deep-seated sentiments in both countries. Barker, CFR's current Edward R. Murrow press fellow and former South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, says many in Pakistan's government, intelligence agencies, and military still view India as the real threat and not the militants. "They are still focused on India, and they are still focused on Kashmir, and unless that is dealt with, you are really going to have a hard time getting them to completely focus on the militancy," she says.

Gannon, a special correspondent for the Associated Press, has been working in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1988, and was the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2003 to 2004. She also touched on the complications caused by long-standing tensions with India and says there continues to be support for some militant groups that Pakistan thinks it can control to be used as proxies against India.

On U.S. policy in the region, Gannon says an infusion of more U.S. troops in Afghanistan--currently a matter of hot debate in Washington--is not the answer. "The key to Afghanistan's future is its own government, its own warlords who are ministers and power brokers, and also key in my mind is going after those who are the threat to the United States and to the international community, which wouldn't be the Taliban as such or Mullah Omar but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliates," she says. In Pakistan, Barker says Washington needs to do a better job of explaining to Pakistanis why they are involved in this fight against terrorism.


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