One step forward, two steps back

Herr Musharraf, whom one commenter claims is our ‘best option,’ is reportedly training the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan:

Afghan officials allege that Taliban and allied fighters who fled to Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 are learning new, more lethal tactics from the Pakistani military at numerous training bases. “Pakistan is lying,” said Lt. Sayed Anwar, acting head of Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism department. “We have very correct reports from their areas. We have our intelligence agents inside Pakistan’s border as well… They say they are friends of Americans, and yet they order these people to kill Americans…” [Link]

Clearly Anwar hasn’t had any PR training — he has the balls to call a spade a spade. In contrast, newspapers always hasten to add the Pakistani military’s denial, injecting artificial ‘balance’ by spreading that threadbare lie.

Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani journalist who freelances for the Los Angeles Times, recently reported that at least some training camps that were closed on Musharraf’s orders have been reopened. The government denies that there are training camps. But Ali, who also writes for the Pakistani magazine the Herald, visited one camp and found armed militants with fresh recruits as young as 13 undergoing 18-day “ideological orientation” and weapons training. Several sources said 13 militant camps had been reactivated in the Mansehra region alone in the first week of May…

“Our transport fleet is back, electricity has been restored and the communications system is in place,” a militant guide reportedly boasted to Ali. The reported reopening of militant training camps in Pakistan coincides with the discovery of the high-tech bombs in Afghanistan. [Link]

The triggers consisted of long-range cordless phones attached with black electrical tape to electronic boxes… “These phones are Pakistani-made phones,” he said… “They have Pepsis in the mountains while I can’t find them here in the city,” Nooristani said. “That means they are well supported.” [Link]

Al Qaeda commanders have been caught in major Pakistani cities, not just in the North-West Frontier Province:

Several highly wanted al Qaeda leaders who have been captured in recent years by the FBI and CIA were caught not in the remote terrain along the Pakistani border, but in major cities such as Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

“Why is it that all the roads keep going back to Pakistan?” said M. J. Gohel, a terrorism analyst and chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based think tank. “Is it a coincidence, or is there something more? The linkages there are just too strong and consistent. The whole backbone of the jihadi infrastructure is not being dismantled. It is still functioning…” [Link]

And the guy behind the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history is believed to be holed up in Pakistan:

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Kabul who is now the U.S envoy in Baghdad, has been more blunt and said that bin Laden is in Pakistan. [Link]

But the ever-tenacious general, like O.J. Simpson, will continue to search for the real killers. Now he weeps that terrorist training camps aren’t in Pakistan, they’re in Britain:

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan also noted that some Islamic groups banned in Pakistan “operate with impunity” in Britain. [Link]

Meanwhile, our favorite South Asian ally pretends it didn’t sell nukes to North Korea, Iran, Libya and possibly Saudi Arabia, and our president pretends not to notice. But if a suitcase nuke ever goes off in the U.S., chances are good that it’ll be of Pakistani provenance. If you judged Musharraf by his scary behavior rather than his words, you’d think he was Kim Jong-Il.

This is supposed to be a friendly dictator? I’ll take what’s behind the second curtain. We’ve chosen our friends wisely indeed.

22 thoughts on “One step forward, two steps back

  1. Slate is skeptical:

    A provocative—and thinly sourced—front-page LAT piece goes with allegations from Afghan officials that Pakistani troops are training and equipping Afghan militants. The Afghan sources pointed out that militants have been using particularly sophisticated bombs in the last few months. They’re the kind of devices, argued the Afghans, that militants could get only if they had, say, Pakistani military help. The Times also says that one of its freelance reporters visited (nebulously described) “training camps” for militants in Pakistan that were once closed by the government and now seem to be thriving.

    Still, I did like the quote about the Pepsi cans:

    “When our soldiers got up on the mountain, we saw empty cans of Pepsi and old running shoes, which means they changed into new ones for the operation,” the lieutenant said, sitting on the edge of a cot where he sleeps next to his desk. “They have Pepsis in the mountains while I can’t find them here in the city,” Nooristani said. “That means they are well supported.”
  2. color me skeptical, since i don’t think muzzy has much control over much of his country in any case. but i haven’t been reading this blog as much the last couple of days, what do pakiskeptics propose that we do to remediate the situation? invasion? economic sanctions?

  3. Razib,

    If by “we” you mean the United Staes, then how about starting by recognizing that there is a major problem with the way Musharraf is running his country. Bush and his cohorts still seem to be in cahoots with Musharraf. I’ve barely heard any criticism or questioning of Musharraf’s policies coming out of Washington. The friendship between Washington and Islamabad has to be severed before anything else.


  4. history has proven that even regime changes in these countries do not change the way they function-america continues to bully the world while sectarian violence has been prevalent in pakistan since zia-ul-haq’s time. but i seriously doubt the authenticity of the report that claims musharraf is training talibans.

  5. Clearly Anwar hasnÂ’t had any PR training

    There is no such thing as PR when you / your men are targets of the quoted sophisticated weaponry ! Or should there be?

  6. this is the reason why Bush’s War on Terror is a farce, bcuz he’s trying to appease the public by catching middlemen and no-namers while the big guns like Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are free to do as they please.

  7. Razib — Pressure Musharraf to resign either as president or as Chief of Army Staff. Demand full andf free general elections. Quit harrassing the press. on and on…

    The effect — a fully legitimate Pk gvt that can fight off the unpopular but militant religious groups. Musharraf has no legitimacy in fighint those who claim, like Jim Belushi, to be on a mission from God. A democractically elected leader would.

  8. Musharraf was Army Chief since Pakistan started the policy of propping up Taliban. The main reason for propping up Taliban is to have a “freindly” neighbour on the west.

    Earlier Najibullah govt. (I hope I am spelling the name right) and even the Northern Alliance were PRO-India. As a result Pakistan propped up Taliban govt. Most of whom probably studied in madrassas run in Pakistan. (Taliban means student).

    Musharraf has all the reasons to start training Taliban. Since the Afghan militart action by US, India can be seen with a prominent presence in Afghanistan. Such as running a hospital run by Indian doctors and providing re-construction help. Karzai has visited India with all state honours. This is bound to make Musharraf nervous, who was involved in the creation of Taliban in the first place.

  9. benazir and nawaz sharif were also democratically elected. did militancy/terrorism decrease during their rule…no it did not. karachi became a hunting ground for militants but of course now since the issue has become more global the world has started noticing.

  10. The effect — a fully legitimate Pk gvt that can fight off the unpopular but militant religious groups. Musharraf has no legitimacy in fighint those who claim, like Jim Belushi, to be on a mission from God. A democractically elected leader would.

    They are not exactly unpopular. Support for Bin Laden is upto 51% in Pakistan (Highest in the World as I understand) Also as Ali pointed out, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir did nothing to control the militants either.

  11. Unpopular religious groups… Keep your blinkers on guys.

    I can’t see how you can say both Pakistan is a hotbed of Islamist fundamentalism and give power to the people in one breath and not realize your own fallacy.

    The fact that Musharraf is allegedly kowtowing to Al Qaeda shows that how deeply entrenched the Islamists are in the Pakistani government heirarchy.

    Lets not forget the Father of the Bomb was around during democratic times, spreading his technology. You guys continue to think that the Pakistani leadership (and responsibility therein) lies in the hands of one man. You have a very shallow outlook on governance and its composition if you beleive that getting rid of Musharraf and “instituting” democracy (and just how the BLEEP are you going to institute it? “Demand” away, children, it ain’t happening) will solve the problems of nuclear proliferation, back-channel support for Al-Qaeda and the rise of Islamist parties in popularity.

    All the above problems stayed constant through corrupt, ineffecient ‘democracies’ like Nawaz Sharif’s government, and through dictatorships like Zia’s. The problem of the ISI funding the Taleban, the close friendships between the Pakistanis and the Taliban, the nuclear proliferation did NOT start because of your boogieman, HERR Musharraf, and will not END when he leaves power. The roots of the problem are well sown into the government, not just the elected offices, but the bureaucracy, technocrats and scientists as well. And the Islamists, like it or not, are popular, and their popularity is growing.. I just gave you about a dozen sources that all point to the fact that the Islamists are resurgent in the politics of the country.

    I’m not a Musharraf apologist, but I also know the ground truths that there are no real leadership alternatives.

    Also, please name 5 Prime Ministeral Candidates that could possibly hold their ground in the National Assembly. Bhutto and Sharif are automatically disqualified for being the corrupt bastards that they are. - courtesy Alybaba. Sharif is not welcome back in Pakistan, that’s something you’ll realize only if you lived there or visit there.

    P.S. Oh and I just LOVE the snide Hitler/Nazi reference…its the latest craze these days to throw around the Nazi analogy…I thought you watched Jon Stewart…he had something to say about the egregious use of Nazi/Hitler in todays society…look it up.

  12. this is the reason why Bush’s War on Terror is a farce, bcuz he’s trying to appease the public by catching middlemen and no-namers while the big guns like Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are free to do as they please.

    Yes, this is all too nuanced for me. Bring back an action man with a straightforward plan. Kerry in ’08.

  13. exactly…there are no leadership alternatives but i think musharraf is ‘comparatively’ the best for pakistan currently……..don’t forget he’s become quite unpopular with the fanatical religious leaders,leading to an assassination attempt, due to his pro-American policy regarding terrorism and realistically speaking ,does Pakistan have any choice other than to do America’s bidding. He may not be legitimately elected but he world sure treats him like one in addition to the fact that he’s hugely popular with the moderates in Pakistan.

  14. AlMujahid — OBL will not be runnign to become the National assembly member from Dera Ghazi Khan or Gulshan-i-Iqbal. Yes, the MMA does well in Sarhad and Baluchistan, but not that much better that the old JUI used to do. The real difference is that, for a variety of reasons, the up-to-now fractious religious parties have been able to unite, amplifying their influence in a first-past-the-post electoral system.

    The MMA received a whoppin 11% of the votes in the (somewhat rigged) 2002 election. In a truly free election, they would do worse. Why be scared fo this?

    In Punjab and Sindh, the PPP, PML (whatever) and the MQM (whatever) will continue to be the big vote getters.

    Musharraf needs Islamic militants to succeed to convicne the US to continue sporting him. Says MQM candidate Nasreen Jalil

    The government gifted NWFP to the MMA to check American influence.

    A democratic gvt wouldn’t need to do that.

  15. Folks, we can talk all the military options and other “Bush and Musharraf are in cahoots” naive theories, but dealing with Pakistan is far more complicated in that for the following reasons.

    1) Large untamed population, Mushie doesn’t have control of large areas. Just think of the mini-insurgency HE is facing in Balochistan.

    2) Nuclear Weapons and capable delivery platforms

    3) A VERY capbable intelligence service. The ISI is pretty damn good at what they do. They initially trained up the Taliban, they are their current suppliers, and they are a renegade organization within the Pakistan Govt. Think of ISI a loose umbrella organization under which mob cartels operate.

    The United States went the only way IT COULD when Afghanistan was initially de-talibanized. After that its been a wait and see approach. The US military will tell you in a heart beat (as reports do) they are right over the border. US Special Ops set up ambushes to get these guys, when the bad guys do escape, the go right over the border.

    By the way, Mushie and Bush aren’t buddy buddy, as a matter of fact they never were. Bush wanted bad guys, Mushie wants to survive so he said what Bush wanted to hear.

    Has ANYONE noticed in the past year how far US-Indian ties are “rocketing”? The noose is tightening and the United States isn’t worried about China right now (nor is India). THey are worried about Pakistan collapsing.

    If Musharraf is assasinated, both India and United States have the most to lose. Despite the fact that its Musharraf’s hand that is stained with Indian blood from Kargil, even INDIA needs Musharraf right now. It is American pressure that has been credited with the decrease in cross border infiltration. It is with Musharraf that ‘peace’ deals are being struck with.

    Only two ways Musharraf is going to be out of power: By force or by his choice and democracy. Only route that wouldn’t produce more war and chaos is phasing in democracy again. He was supposed to do this, but delayed it again. He is dancing on the fine line, but time is running out.

    With India clearly becoming a MAJOR economic partner, with US forces on the other side with Afghanistan, Musharraf WILL have to walk the walk and produce RESULTS. Logically, all his other choices are pretty darn bad.

    Phasing in democracy makes more sense too, if Musharraf dies, his successor will be a hardliner with access to Nukes, and that aint good. Jihadists with nukes aint a good proposition either. Even though the NWFP have a strong Islamist base, most of Paki population is Punjab and Sindh. I am pretty sure they can outvote Jihadists.

    Again, look at the hints though, Bush is NOT happy with Pakistan and hasn’t been happy from the get go. They’ve been trying to work around it and it hasnt worked. Strategy IS changing, but this game is being played in the shadows.

  16. it’s true that simply ‘installing’ democracy in Pakistan won’t work, but to invade Iraq on the pretext of terror and then look the other way when Pakistan does as it wants is hypocritical and makes the US look even worse. Although democracy and free markets are closely tied, if there was a way to help Pakistan implement these markets I’m sure it would be a much stronger modernizing force over the nation than trying to strongarm democracy into yet another hostile territory

  17. “The effect — a fully legitimate Pk gvt that can fight off the unpopular but militant religious groups. Musharraf has no legitimacy in fighint those who claim, like Jim Belushi, to be on a mission from God. A democractically elected leader would.”

    It’s possible that a democratically elected leader would be more worried about keeping powerful religious leaders happy, since they can influence part of the voter base.

  18. It’s possible that a democratically elected leader would be more worried about keeping powerful religious leaders happy, since they can influence part of the voter base.

    Part. 11% of the vote in a rigged election is a small part. In a first-past-the post system, that’s not much influence.

    And often, the MMA gets votess for bread and butter reasons. The Jamaat-i-Islami mayor fo Karachi has made the shortlist for the World mayor award, partly for his success at solving Karachi’s Traffic problems. See the comments at the site below.

  19. Ikram, I think the 11% figure is not a good indicator of the public mood regarding the war on terror. We are not talking here about the ability of the MMA to get itself elected in a national election. We are talking here of the war on terror and specifically the ability of the Pakistani government to prosecute this ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan. The numerous polls which have been taken in Pakistan show over and over again that Musharraf’s war on terror in Pakistan is not that popular. Its not just 11% of the people in Pakistan who idolize Bin Laden. The figures are over 50%. Any elected government which has to face elections will have to take into consideration the mood of the public. If more than a majority of the Pakistanis consider Bin Laden to be a great hero, I am not sure how the PPP or Muslim league could prosecute the war on terror as efficiently as Musharraf especially when they will have to face the electorate in an election which Musharraf does not have to.

  20. musharraf’s war on terror is extremely popular with the educated minority who are unfortunately just a little over 20 percent of the entire 150 million as well as the shia muslims who again form a minority of the population.