Washington DC, the capital of the USA, founded 1785 and designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant with inspiration from Versailles, is a beautiful city. The seat of the US government, major think tanks and multinationals, it is here that much of the fate of the world is decided. However the present financial crisis, unemployment and economic depression are worrisome, but as you walk about downtown in shops and restaurants, they seem busy and thriving. In Islamabad I often have that problem with people who say inflation is breaking people's back. It is not a fact. On the contrary, markets and restaurants are full, and people are eating away. If you live in Islamabad as I do, you know that this prosperity is a faade hiding huge income inequalities. As a visitor I do not know if that is the case in Washington. News about Kabul is hot as I arrived. The Secretary of Defence "forced out" General McKiernan, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, on May 10 (Monday) has been replaced by General McChrystal, a Director General from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The reason, they say, is the unprecedented number of attacks on the US soldiers in Afghanistan. The April figure of attacks was the highest as compared to any month since 2001. Out there in Afghanistan and Iraq, the stress on the US troops is beginning to show. Several non-combat deaths of US soldiers have taken place. The most recent being of Sgt Randy S Agno, 29, who died in Walter Reed, a military hospital in Washington (Ayub Khan had his heart operation here in 1967), of injuries he received a few weeks ago in a private shootout. But the most tragic killing was in Iraq where Sgt John Russell shot five of his colleagues in a psychological counselling clinic. Tired, desperate and stressed, he opened up on all of them including the psychologists. This happened in Camp Liberty, Baghdad; reporters were kept away. Sgt Russell was on his third tenure of duty in Iraq where the US war is now into its seventh year. He seems to have had a troubled personal history that was aggravated by the accumulated stress of Iraq. The situation in Afghanistan is equally alarming. According to the Department of Defence, 610 US service members and a Defence Department civilian had been killed in Afghanistan. 160 of these deaths were in non-combat incidents. On the other hand, in a clash on May 4-5 in the villages of Gerani and Ganjabad of Farah province, 95 children were killed according to an Afghan government investigation commission. The Red Cross says: "Women and children were among dozens of dead people its team saw scattered in the villages in the aftermath of the bombing", but they did not give a figure. President Hamid Karzai says in fact 125 out of 130 civilians died in the strikes which he termed "not acceptable." That is a revolting comment for a puppet president to make. We in Pakistan are familiar with such hollow expressions of indignation. In the end, they settle for an envelope. But all this is not to suggest that "other" news is denied space by preoccupation with AfPak. Mr Zardari has just ended a visit to the US. Apart from the expense that his hosts might have gone to, considerable sum of money would naturally have been by our missions at Washington and New York. Obviously, the large number of government officials who accompanied the president would have charged their respective departments. That would raise the figure considerably and many eyebrows in the Congress. Meanwhile hearings are in progress before the House Congress of Appropriation Committee on bills for aid to Pakistan. The committee is discussing whether the aid should be civilian or military, whether it is to be disbursed through the State Department or the Department of Defence, and the need for guarantees that the money would be spent properly as intended. What a paradox: the Americans support favourites in spite of the feeling that they might misappropriate it. The writer is a former ambassador at large