Lost in the whole disgrace that is the “War on Terror™” as well as the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the saber rattling with Iran, North Korea and just about everyone else that looks at Dear Leader funny) is the potentially far worse and all too rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan.
You remember Pakistan – our newest bestest friend who was providing nuclear technology and information to North Korea (warning, .pdf), right? The same Pakistan who also recently
offered safe haven to Osama Bin Laden, you know – that guy who worked with Saddam and took down the WTC and Pentagon.
Well, things are in, shall we say, a real precarious situation over there right about now. Especially since they already DO have lots of nuclear weapons, previously threatened to use them on India and have been dangerously close to a military coup (not the one that put Musharraf in power
democratically by force).
But lately, there have been a number of developments that should make us all sit up and take notice of the “goings on” which should give us pause – to say the least. You may remember that roughly one month ago, a tip by US intelligence about an Al Qaeda safe haven led to an attack on an Islamic school, killing close to 80 people. As with other “mistakes”, there was word that Al Qaeda was hiding in the area, and regardless of whether this was true or not, it certainly didn’t make life easier for Musharraf.
Why do I say that? Well, mainly because it is painfully clear that the way that this whole “WarOnTerrah™” has been conducted is completely ass backwards and isn’t working one bit. Information sharing, good police work and good solid human intelligence has shown to work in the UK for years. Dropping bombs on “suspected targets”, regardless of whether you sometimes hit those targets as well as invading countries, using banned chemical weapons and pissing off the world to the point where nobody wants to share information with you doesn’t work. And we need countries like Pakistan to help us. But what was the effect of the October bombing?
The raid on the Islamic studies school, known as a madrassa, seemed to represent an abrupt shift from the Musharraf government's recent policy of seeking peaceful negotiations with extremists in the border regions. In the past several months, two peace deals were signed in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan after sustained attacks there by the Pakistani military drew strong local opposition and caused heavy casualties on both sides.
A third such agreement was due to be signed in Bajaur this week, but it seemed almost certain to collapse now. Monday's events are bound to compound problems for Musharraf, whose domestic political support has been steadily eroding.
"What a stupid operation, just one day before an accord between the local Taliban and the government. It has killed the entire spirit and the peaceful atmosphere in the tribal areas," said Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khan, who heads one of two major religious parties in parliament.
Now, say what you will about Musharraf, but he is unfortunately better than what we would get if he were to be assassinated (which has only been attempted numerous times over the past few years). We can talk “what if’s” all day with respect to Iran, but here is a country that already has technology and weapons, AND has good reason to be pissed off at the US.
OK, so this isn’t exactly breaking news. But lately there has been some serious questions raised with respect to Pakistan and the Taliban. Take a new article just released today from Fareed Zakaria. Now, I am no huge fan of him, as he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for invading Iraq (as pointed out so well by Upper West here) but the guy knows his shit. But in his latest, titled ”Pakistan Must Stop Backing Taliban”, he lays out the blame game going on between Karzai and Musharraf regarding the Taliban’s resurgence over the past year or so, as well as the potential future impact on Al Qaeda.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his counterpart in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, have quarreled openly about the cause of the Taliban's reemergence. Musharraf blames Karzai's incompetence and weakness. Karzai argues that Pakistan has been tacitly - and often actively - supporting the Taliban along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in Pakistan itself. Having spoken to a number of senior Western officials and independent observers in both countries, I think it's clear that, in the words of a senior U.S. administration official who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject, "the weight of the evidence supports President Karzai."
Of course, the whole “senior US administration official who wished to remain anonymous” line generally hasn’t proven to be trustworthy, but with all of the things that are going on, and that this administration has reason to lie about, taking sides in a finger pointing match between these two countries doesn’t seem to be at the top of the list. So, while I look at this with some level of skepticism, there is some level of support for the Taliban – whether it is active or passive – it is still a major issue, given the “bestest friend status” of Pakistan.
What too many people seem to forget in the whole re-rise of the Taliban is that they were the major supporters of Al Qaeda in the first place. And since Bush cut and ran from Afghanistan, allowing for the re-emergence of the Taliban (who are nearly at the point where they are gaining favor with the Afghanistan people), any rise in the prominence of the Taliban would have serious consequences in other areas. As Zakaria states:
If Washington is not able to persuade President Musharraf to crack down on the Taliban, it will inevitably mean the renewal of al-Qaida, the only organization that has launched terror attacks across the globe directed at America and Americans. That's not just a problem for the United States' credibility. It is a problem for the safety and security of its citizens.
Two other bits of news that have slid under the radar screen recently deals with refugees flooding Pakistan from Afghanistan as well as more violence recently around Northwest Pakistan. Needless to say, neither of these are good (and serve to reinforce the notion of Pakistani support for the Taliban):
Reports indicate that Pakistan is getting a taste of its own bitter medicine at the hands of these Afghan 'refugees', who are now ready to be used for activities like bomb blasts and suicide bombings against Pakistani forces deployed in Waziristan, NWFP and Balochistan.
Pakistan suspects that the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, consisting of non-Pashtuns, opposed to the Pakistan-propped up Taliban, is using them. It is feared that the Northern Alliance may try to revive the KHAD (Khadmat-e-Itela'at-e-Dawlati) which carried out operations in Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi in the eighties.
Ahmed Rashid, a noted correspondent, has written in the International Herald Tribune that 'Pakistan's military regime, which provides clandestine support to the Taliban and has refused to accept NATO and US plans to arrest the Taliban leaders on its soil, has long calculated that in time the West will walk away from Afghnistan'.
Rashid further goes on to say that 'Pakistani officials are already convinced that the Taliban are winning and are trying to convince NATO and the United States to strike piecemeal deals with the Taliban in the south and east, whih eventually could develop into a Pakistani-brokered Taliban coalition government in Kabul.'
Refugees who may be supporting the Taliban crossing into Pakistan to commit suicide bombings. Questions as to whether the country would provide safe haven to Osama. Assassination attempts against Musharraf. Nuclear capabilities. A thoroughly pissed off extremist movement. All things that could make for another disaster-in-the-making.