First, Pakistan is a sovereign nation with a functioning albeit flawed government, which is more than can be said for Afghanistan. The Pakistani government, spurred by escalating pressure from our government and increasing discontent among its own people, is currently engaged in an offensive against militant extremists within their nation. It is crucial for the United States and allies to secure Afghanistan because if we don't, the Taliban and its posse of related radicals will flow easily across the porous mountain border between the two nations, making it impossible for Pakistan to effectively stem the growing influence of militants within their nation.

Why is this important? I'd say the reasons are at the very least tripartite:
  1. Pakistan is a nuclear state and arguably the most fragile of that growing list.
  2. Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist has been accused of selling nuclear secrets to such "good-neighbor nations" as Libya, Iran and North Korea.
  3. The Pakistani intelligence service is widely believed to have supported, armed and trained militants in Kashmir.
The world seems to be all a tizzy about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. A much more frightening possibility is that of a destabilized Pakistan.

Two years ago, militants assassinated the country's most popular politician, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and in recent years the country has vacillated between military and civilian rule. Earlier this year, the Taliban effectively took over control of the once pristine Swat Valley, imposing a suite of extreme interpretations of Islamic law, including a "complete ban on female education." A video of a public flogging of a 17-year-old girl sparked outrage in a Pakistani civil society that, until recently, had not appeared to perceive the Taliban to be a mortal threat to their own way of life. In May, the Pakistani military launched an offensive in Swat that as of September had displaced more than 3 million people.

In summary, we have an internal war raging for control of a nuclear state, disaffected scientists selling nuclear secrets to the highest bidder, an intelligence service that actively supports terrorists and 3 million displaced people walking around looking for a place to call home. This is the challenge of Pakistan.

This is the reason we are in Afghanistan. Because if we don't find a way to effectively remove the capacity of the Taliban to threaten the stability of either country, we could be looking at a much harder problem than the one we are facing now.

Derrick N. Ashong, or DNA as he is sometimes known, is a Ghana, West Africa, native and has dedicated his life to building bridges between the fields of business, media, technology, youth culture, pop culture and politics. Ashong has lectured on five continents on the use of media as a tool for human development, including recent talks at the London School of Economics, King's College (Cambridge), the Reconciliation Forum in Washington, D.C., the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and before UK Parliament on the subject of "The Obama Generation." He is a member of the internationally recognized Next Generation Leadership Forum and a participant in the Arts & Entertainment task force of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum. Ashong is a Harvard graduate and resides in Los Angeles where he is the leader of the band Soulfège.

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The opinions expressed by contributors are strictly their own.


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