There was mention made this morning on Capitol Hill of a subtle change in something that's very important to diplomats — language.
During a House Subcommittee on National Security hearing about U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., noted that State Department Inspector General Harold Geisel kept saying "Pak-Af" (short for Pakistan and Afghanistan) instead of the abbreviation that in recent years has been so common — "Af-Pak."
Flake wondered: Is this some sort of State Department shift in emphasis between the two nations?
At first, Geisel said he just likes the sound of "Pak-Af" better. Then he said that maybe his staff was "pulling a fast one" on him.
A bit later, Geisel came back with what he said is the real reason for the change: "Ambassador Holbrooke ... started using Pak-Af."
That would be Richard Holbrooke, who's latest State Department title is "special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan." (Hmm: Will he have the title changed too>)
Here's how the Flake-Geisel exchange sounded. We've taken two clips and combined them into one. There's a pause at the 56-second mark. Then Geisel's it-was-Holbrooke explanation follows:
Diplomatic Change? Now It's 'Pak-Af' Not 'Af-Pak'
(Our thanks to NPR State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen for the tip.)