Mumbai Points to Top Obama Challenge

Mumbai terror strikes put S. Asia tensions among other urgent issues.

ByABC News
November 30, 2008, 1:28 PM

Nov. 30, 2008 -- As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to introduce his national security team Monday, last week's massacre in Mumbai is already shaping the agenda.

"South Asia is going to be a focus for the Obama Administration," said Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Watch John Hendren's report on President-elect Obama's national security team announcement tonight on "World News." Check local listings for air time.

With almost two months before Obama takes office, a Who's Who of foreign policy thinkers are already crafting the Obama administration's strategy in a region that includes Afghanistan, India and the increasingly embattled Pakistan -- a nation many in India blame for the Mumbai attacks, as at least some of the attackers are said to have been Pakistani. There is not a shrinking violet in the bunch.

"There will not be a transition when it comes to keeping America safe and secure," Democratic strategist Donna Brazille told ABC News. "The terrorists will not wait."

As previously reported, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's rival in the Democratic primary, is his choice for Secretary of State.

"Despite a lot of talk during the campaign about Afghanistan, really Pakistan is the central issue here. And we can see that because it sits very squarely between these problems in India and the problems we're already seeing in Afghanistan," Markey told ABC. "If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd have second thoughts. And if I were Barack Obama, I'd also wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into. This is going to be tremendously challenging for this new team."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be asked to remain at the Pentagon for at least another year. Eric Holder will be asked to return to the Justice Department as attorney general. Former NATO commander General Jim Jones -- who at a chiseled 6-foot-5 is a Marine straight out of central casting -- will be Obama's choice for National Security Adviser.

It is a roster of political heavy-hitters, assembled to instill confidence, under a president with a slim resume on foreign policy.

"You're looking at grownups. These are people who are tough and they're smart, and they know foreign policy," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of The Rothenberg Political Report. "And the kind of a team that will make people who might be a little nervous about Barack Obama's lack of foreign policy experience, make those people much more comfortable."