Rich Galen

The issue for which Zardari wants a "permanent solution" is the use of drones in Pakistani airspace which is, according to the Pakistani Foreign Minister "not only violate [Pakistani] sovereignty but also inflames public sentiments."

To make its point, Pakistan has said NATO could drive trucks across the border into Afghanistan for a fee of $5,000 per truck, which pretty much crosses the line between a toll and a ransom.

It was not clear from the reporting as to whether this fee needs to be paid in cash, in small denominated, non-sequential bills but you don't have to be an expert in international finance to see where this is headed.

The Obama Administration had hoped to have a deal ready to announce in Chicago, but such a deal is nowhere on the horizon leading one Administration official to say, "The main thing is to get a deal. It's less important as to when," which is State Department-speak for "we failed."

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan weren't improved with the killing of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan after it became obvious that bin Laden was living with his family more-or-less just outside the mess hall of Pakistan's version of West Point.

So, the NATO conference, on the heels of the G-8 conference at Camp David the day before, sees France set against German, Pakistan v the United States, and Hamid Karzai calling the shots.

Good meetings, I think, don't you?

On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to pieces on Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as a pretty good Mulfoto from Marietta, Ohio 45750 over the weekend and a Catchy Caption of the Day showing (and defining) the annular solar eclipse.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at