Stealth U.S. trips over holiday include Napolitano to Pakistan

July 6, 2009

So Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t the only one making a stealth trip to an overseas hot spot over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Turns out Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ended her European visit with an unannounced seven-hour stop in Pakistan on Friday and discussed border security and other issues with officials including the president, prime minister, and interior minister.SPAIN/

Of course, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have any role in securing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, so it was more of a discussion about her experience in dealing with U.S.-Mexican border security issues.

We are told the fence issue came up. Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico, has never been a big fan of fencing off the border.

The United States has been building a  670-mile fence along its nearly 2,000-mile  border with Mexico. Just an observation from far away – building a fence along the 1,100-mile border between Pakistan and Afghanistan would probably involve greater challenges given the treacherous mountainous terrain, not to mention militant hideouts.AFGHANISTAN/

For Napolitano it was her first trip ever to Pakistan. She traveled to Islamabad from Kuwait and discussed ways in which Pakistan and the United States could increase cooperation and information-sharing, including on travelers.

“She was impressed with some of the steps that they are taking to counter violent extremism, particularly with respect to al Qaeda, and it was a welcome sign to her,” said spokesman Sean Smith.

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Photo credit: Reuters/Susana Vera (Napolitano at news conference in Madrid on July 1), Reuters/Oleg Popov (Afghan soldier stands guard at border with Pakistan)

2 comments

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Napolitano was impressed with some of the steps that they are taking to counter violent extremism, particularly with respect to al Qaeda, and it was a welcome sign to her,” said spokesman Sean Smith.

Regarding above, she don’t know the pakistani politicians yet, because they behave differently (typically politically) from their actual nature, which later on realised,…by the world… but obama knows them very well…how pakistani’s are…!!!

Posted by Nilesh Golakia | Report as abusive

Though a trip to to Paksitan by DHS Secretary Napolitano isn’t a no-brainer, upon a moment’s thought, it does make good sense. And she’s probably right (in fact, I think she’s 100% correct) to be less than enthused at the notion of a fence along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan (as well as between her former state, Arizona, and Mexico), and for more reasons than mentioned in the article.

I’m primarily thinking of what might be called “the Mother of All Border Fences” — the Great Wall of China. It always surprises me when the subject of the US border fence comes up in conversation just how rarely others have made that connection, even Americans. (I live in SE Asia, so interact with people of many nationalities).

The Great Wall was a border fence, meant to keep out any would-be Mongol invaders, primarily, and anyone else on the other side who might get the idea of invading China.

As is the case with our border fence, but contrary to what a great many people believe, the Great Wall is not a single, continuous wall stretching betwwen the east coast of China and the far-flung western reaches of the country, but is a series of walls, with gaps in between. And that wass true even when it was in its best condition.

And therein lies the rub: those gaps.

Though it’s a tremendous oversimplification to say that invaders simply went around the wall, on one level, that’s true. And that’s why I’ve never supported the US border fence, not at all. In fact, I’ve e-mailed various relevant people in government complaining about it as being a waste of money and human resources. The tanking of our economy has been a hell of a lot more effective at stemming illegal immigration than the fence has been.

The article is spot on in observing that to build a fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan would be harder than building one along the border between the US and Mexico. There are the mentioned rugged mountains and the militant hideouts.

And there’s the fact that Pakistan shares land borders with Iran, China, and India, all substantial. The Taleban and al-Qaeda operatives (as well as other militants) could simply do an “end run” around any Pakistan-Afghanistan dividing fence, even a continuous one. Plus Pakistan has a coast, a fairly lengthy one, one that proved porous in the attack in India launched from Pakistan (alledgedly).

But I think it’s good the Secretary stopped off, if for no other reason than it’s a little more evidence that the US government takes the country’s concerns seriously, particularly those that directly overlap and match our own. And symbolically important is that she made the stop on a major US holiday, instead of clearing out of D.C. and heading home to eat hot dogs and watch firework displays!

Posted by Mekhong Kurt | Report as abusive