Pakistan is adrift, and Washington is gripped with worry over the competence and prospects of Pakistan’s civilian government. The United States and Pakistan are caught in a dangerous spiral where Pakistani inactivity and incompetence lead to more heavy-handed U.S. policies, which stirs up more anti-Americanism among the Pakistani public.

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The Israeli assault against Gaza grinds on. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has put dusty boots on the ground (it doesn’t rain enough for them to be muddy), and the bombing and shelling by both sides continue. Civilians, as is usually the case in this part of the world, bear the brunt of the suffering. In the end, it will end, and nothing appreciable will have been accomplished. Hamas will not be destroyed, and the Palestinians will still not have their demands met. Some things seem never to change.

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Shuja Nawaz, head of our new South Asia center, was interviewed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty yesterday on the Pakistan-Afghanistan nexus.  The entire feature appears below as a courtesy to our readers.

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Meeting in the ornate Treaty Room atop the State Department in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on Friday signed the United States-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.  “I want the people of Georgia to know,” said Rice, “that they will always have a friend in the United States of America.”

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I've joined what seems to be a consensus of Western observers in decrying Israel's heavyhanded tactics and callous disregard for civilian casualties in its invasion of Gaza.  It's worth remembering, however, that it's fighting a terrorist enemy that commits war crimes with casual impunity.

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Time's Tim McGirk asks, "Can Israel Survive its Assault on Gaza?"  While rather hyperbolically phrased, it's a good question.

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Future of International Energy Security

As the New Year ushered in yet another natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, an initially subdued European response turned lively as the effects of the cut began to be felt throughout the Continent. While the immediate crisis has apparently been resolved, it highlights the longer term question of how Europe (and the U.S.) can diversify their energy and avoid being held hostage. 

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The head of  al Qaeda in Pakistan was killed last week, Joby Warrick reports on page 1 of today's WaPo.

A New Year's Day CIA strike in northern Pakistan killed two top al-Qaeda members long sought by the United States, including the man believed to be behind September's deadly suicide bombing at a Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital

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A deal is reported to have been reached that will see the flow of Russian gas into Europe resume shortly.  Although the pricing dispute between Moscow and Kyiv seems as intractable as ever, Russia has agreed to turn on its gas if international monitors observe the pipelines at their entry and exit points through Ukraine.

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The Economist ran an interesting graph yesterday — car ownership per 1,000 people in select countries on both sides of the Atlantic.  And the U.S. didn't top the list...

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