Daily Archives: February 7, 2008

I am now in Kabul, and so are Condi Rice and David Miliband. The "security situation" here is so dicey that the arrival of the American secretary of state and Britain’s foreign secretary could not be advertised in advance. In fact my Foreign Office companions became highly agitated when I mentioned on an "open line" (ie a mobile phone call home) that I was sitting in a motorcade at Kabul airport, with Rice and Miliband in the car ahead, waiting to be swept along to the president’s palace.

The security is so tight that it must be virtually impossible for visiting western dignitaries to form any spontaneous impression of Afghanistan. Rice and Miliband arrived early this morning on an unadvertised flight from London. They were immediately put on a military plane to Kandahar – but did not leave the military base there. Then it was back to Kabul, and a short drive to see President Karzai on a road that had been cleared of all traffic. Then it was time to visit some more troops in a gym at Nato HQ. And that’s it. Condi is off tonight. Miliband is staying for a formal dinner. I’m sure they will have had "frank discussions" with President Karzai. But they must be completely reliant on their diplomats for any impression of how things are going.

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I am in Islamabad, which is perhaps not the ideal place from which to comment on Super Tuesday. But while we still have months and months to go before the Americans actually choose their president, the Pakistani elections are coming up fast – February 18th in fact.

There are three big questions surrounding the vote:

1) Will Musharraf rig the voting? 2) If the opposition win can they form a stable government? 3) Can any government improve the security situation – which means regaining control of the wilder bits of the country and stopping the suicide bombings which are becoming a regular feature of Pakistani life?

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