Thursday, August 16, 2007

BushCo.'s Big Problem With Pakistan

Musharraf : Not All Taliban Are Terrorists

Pakistan Will Allow Iran To India Gas Pipeline

BushCo. are pressuring Pakistan's president General Pervez Musharraf to enter into a power sharing arrangement with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf is seen to be dramatically losing favour with middle class Pakistanis, and a growing target of extremists and influential tribal leaders who feel he is doing America's work in crushing supposedly Al Qaeda aligned and sympathetic tribal groups in the Afghanistan border territories.

Musharraf himself has expressed sympathy towards the Taliban, claiming recently that not all Taliban should be regarded as terrorists. Claims by Musharraf that were barely reported in Western media.

The US doesn't want to see Musharraf fall, but they know he cannot cling to power without stirring up more trouble, and spreading the extremists cause. The recent siege of the Red Mosque is now viewed as having been extremely damaging to Musharraf's hold on power, as it resulted in the deaths of dozens of women and children, as well as numerous soldiers.

The more Musharraf cracks down on extremists in Pakistan, and in the Afghanistan border regions, the more he is seen to be fighting America's War on Terror, which for a growing number of Muslims is viewed as a Christian War On Islam.

But the War on Terror also brings in billions of dollars to Musharraf's military. More than $US10 billion since 9/11.

And yet, Musharraf is not playing ball with BushCo. when it comes to Iran. Musharraf has said that it is in his country's "national interest" for a new gas pipeline to pass through Pakistan territory. A pipeline running from Iran to India.

In short, as this story from the Boston Globe puts it, the US has a 'Big Problem' in Pakistan :

After having said he didn't spend much time thinking about Osama bin Laden, the latest National Intelligence Estimate has forced President Bush to face up to the fact that a reconstituted Al Qaeda in Pakistan is a major threat -- perhaps the major threat -- to the United States.

Clearly, President Pervez Musharraf's attempt to buy peace and loyalty on the northwest frontier has backfired. He had hoped to head off increasing support for Islamist extremists, but instead Al Qaeda has been the beneficiary. Frances Townsend, Bush's Homeland Security adviser, spoke the truth when she said; "It hasn't worked for Pakistan, and it hasn't worked for the United States."

The siege and storming of the Red Mosque has riled the faithful, and Musharraf's unlawful and unsuccessful attempt to unseat Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry has made the president of Pakistan look foolish.

But what to do? There have been hints of military action against Al Qaeda in Pakistan, some of them clandestine to avoid embarrassing Musharraf who has forbidden American troops on Pakistani soil. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama has advocated attacking Al Qaeda in Pakistan no matter what the Pakistanis think -- a formula for disaster. The idea of Navy Seals, CIA, or Special Forces operating in some of the most remote and desolate territory on earth without benefit of local knowledge or Pakistani help would be counterproductive in the extreme.

Moreover, the American way of war depends on massive firepower from the air, not the determined, loss-inflicting, village-to-village way that is necessary in irregular warfare. The number of civilian deaths being inflicted in neighboring Afghanistan by American and NATO forces has caused President Hamid Karzai to protest time and time again -- the reason being that these civilian deaths are turning the local population against the government. When the tipping point arrives, all our efforts in Afghanistan are doomed. To repeat this in Pakistan would be a strategic blunder on the scale of Iraq.

A result of American armed intervention in Pakistan could be the dissolution of Pakistan itself. The border lands with Afghanistan, Balochistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province -- never mind the tribal territories -- are a major problem for Pakistan. Costly and nation-threatening revolts have plagued the government since Pakistan was formed.

The British had constant problems in the border regions during their tenure, with armed rebellions in Waziristan as late as the 1930s. The strange arrangement of the tribal territories, which are not completely under the government's control, are a legacy of those times when the British tried to buy peace on the frontier.

Unfortunately not everybody in Pakistan, including some in the intelligence services, think it a bad thing to have a Taliban card to play just in case Afghanistan turns against Pakistan at some future date. Pakistan has not forgotten that once the Soviets called it quits and withdrew beyond the river Oxus, America lost interest and just walked away, leaving the region in chaos.

More on how the US is now prodding Musharraf to share power :

General Musharraf, an important ally since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has lost so much domestic support in recent months that American officials have gotten behind the idea that an alliance with Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, would be his best chance of remaining president.

The two met in an unannounced session in Abu Dhabi on July 27, but neither has publicly admitted to the meeting. Since then, many in Pakistan have heard the rumors and voiced their doubts about the workability and political wisdom of such a deal, and American officials concede that the proposed power-sharing could come with problems as well as benefits.

But after weeks of unrest in Pakistan, the American officials say a power-sharing agreement that might install Ms. Bhutto as prime minister could help defuse a confrontation in which General Musharraf has already flirted with invoking emergency powers. Administration officials have said they fear that General Musharraf could eventually be toppled and replaced by a leader who might be less reliable as a guardian of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and as an ally against terrorism.

Even if General Musharraf were to insist on remaining as the country’s military leader, American officials say that sharing power could bring a more democratic spirit to Pakistan, which has been a quasi-military dictatorship since 1999, when General Musharraf seized power and ousted Ms. Bhutto’s successor, Nawaz Sharif.

Ms. Bhutto has been holding talks in recent weeks with senior Bush administration officials, including Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, with whom she met privately late last week.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did discuss the idea of a power-sharing arrangement when she called General Musharraf last week at 2 a.m. in Pakistan to warn him not to declare emergency powers, American and Pakistani officials said.

In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Ms. Bhutto said that she was aware that an alliance with the now-weakened General Musharraf could hurt her politically.

“We want to avoid a situation where we are seen as bailing out an unpopular military dictatorship,” said Ms. Bhutto, who has been living in London and Dubai. She said the pace of the talks between General Musharraf and her Pakistan People’s Party was too slow, with him making promises that he has not kept.

“When we are doing this for a level playing field, when we’re doing this for a higher cause, which is the restoration of the people’s right to elect a government of their choice, that should translate into tangible measures,” Ms. Bhutto said. “And if it doesn’t translate into tangible measures, then it can be misinterpreted by the people at large.”

In comments barely even reported by Western media, let alone commented upon, President Musharraf recently declared that not all Taliban are necessarily terrorists, as the United States widely defines them :

"We must understand the environment. Taliban are a part of Afghan society. Most of them may be ignorant and misguided, but all of them are not diehard militants and fanatics, who even defy the most fundamental values of our culture and our faith Islam," Musharraf said...

To root out Al-Qaida and Taliban militants from the region, Musharraf called for a more comprehensive long-term strategy along with military action.

"Talibanisation and extremism represent a state of mind and require a more comprehensive long-term strategy where military action must be combined with a political approach and socio-economic development," he said.

"Our approach must be focussed on isolating those diehard militants who reject reconciliation and peace. Here, it is a question of winning hearts and minds," he added.

One controversial issue where Musharraf is clearly defying the wishes of BushCo. is on the Iran to India gas pipeline, which will weave through Pakistan territory. President Bush, and the energy cabal that thrust him into power, don't want the pipeline to go ahead, because it will affect world prices and reduce the US-pushed sanctions against countries doing business with Iran to tatters.

Musharraf said the pipeline will go ahead, because it was in Pakistan's "national interest".

Pakistan Warns US On Damage To Relations

Raw Story : How Pakistan Provided Troops And Military Aid To The Taliban