New US Envoy Heads to Pakistan and Afghanistan

"Whether we live in Kabul or Islamabad or Washington, we need to share a common vision for the future," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a major policy address at Asia Society on Feb. 18. Putting that vision to the test, the new US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Marc Grossman, heads to the region for the first time this week in his new role, expressly to reaffirm the message in Clinton's speech, according to the State Department.

The challenges are daunting. US-Pakistan ties have been roiled by the arrest in Pakistan of American Raymond Davis, who shot dead two men and was later revealed to be working for the CIA. As the case drags on, "a serious and urgent review of US-Pakistan relations is in order—on both sides," Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Hassan Abbas writes in his latest blog post.

Regarding Afghanistan, Clinton outlined a new phase of US diplomatic efforts that will "actively engage with states in the region" to advance a political settlement. "By including a specific reference to Iran in her remarks, Secretary Clinton seemed to indicate a readiness to engage with Tehran in regional talks about Afghanistan's stability," says Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society's Vice President of Global Policy Programs. "This reinforces the opening to Tehran that President Barack Obama conveyed during a 'background session' on Iran policy to a small group of journalists in Washington in August 2010, which included a proposal for a track for talks on Afghanistan separate from the 5+1 talks on the nuclear issue. It remains to be seen if Iran will bite," she says. 

"The key would be to focus on areas of mutual interest, including ending al-Qaida's safe havens in the border region and combating drug production and trafficking as a major source of terrorist financing."

What do you think? What is the way forward for US-Pakistan ties? Can Afghanistan find peace? Separately, should the US negotiate directly with the Taliban?