The President has decided in view of Chinese threats over the region that American forces should be reconfigured from the Middle East, in a strategic “Tilt Towards Asia.” The Secretary of State, Ronald Adams, flies in Air Force Two on a mission reassuring allies throughout Southeast Asia. His staff assistant, Robbie Cutler, again helps plan the trip to Australia, Singapore, Hanoi, Manila, Bangkok and New Delhi.
Along the way, Al Qaeda hatches several assassination plots against the Secretary – with the help of Chinese covert resources in the region. And they display a deadly facility with cyberwarfare – turning America’s technology against us, as emails from Air Force Two are used in a murder plot against Secretary Adams.
The rivalry between China and the United States calls to mind the Great Game of the nineteenth century, as imperial Britain and Czarist Russia struggled over the approaches to India. The new Great Game concerns much of the same region, with far higher stakes, in the nuclear era. But is official China aware of the working alliance with Al Qaeda?
In Kabul, Robbie Cutler leaves the official party to begin his six month temporary duty assignment in beleaguered Kandahar Province. His adventures include tracking an overland smuggled shipment of ammonium sulfate, the raw material of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). But his greatest satisfaction as he leaves Kabul may be the well that was dug to provide healthy water for the people of remote Maruf District.