State Dept Pakistan Chief: Ask Me Later About Bhutto

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There’s no statement as yet on Bhutto’s assassination from Richard Boucher. That’s notable, considering Boucher is the assistant secretary of state for South Asia. A spokeswoman for Boucher referred me to the general State press office before saying that she was telling reporters to watch for a statement from President Bush.

As the assassination of Benazir Bhutto throws U.S.-Pakistani relations into turmoil, it’s worth pointing out how the staffing of the U.S.’s Pakistan team indicates that Pakistan isn’t exactly a priority for the Bush administration. Boucher is a career foreign service officer, but he has no prior South Asia experience, and his highest-profile portfolios were his two turns as departmental spokesman. The current U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, used to run State’s anti-narcotics efforts — a none-too-subtle signal that combatting Afghan heroin exportation gets more attention from the administration than figuring out what to do with a nuclear-armed dictatorship that’s home to Osama bin Laden and a rising tide of Islamic extremism. Patterson, too, doesn’t have experience in the region. The previous, well-regarded ambassador to Pakistan? He’s a little busy right now somewhere else.

Matthew Yglesias recently noted how we’ve got the C-Listers on Pakistan, and suggested Dick Cheney was exploiting the dearth of expertise to control our Pakistan policies. All of which, it should be noted in fairness, are looking super-awesome right now.

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