American Enterprise Online | 7.10.06
By Alan W. Dowd
In a surprise detour intended to underscore Washington’s commitment to the war on terror, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hop-scotched across the war’s frontlines late last month, visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan en route to a summit Russia. “We are not going to tire,” she intoned, invoking echoes of the president’s stirring words of almost five years earlier. Yet if the US-Pakistan relationship is any indication, it appears the US is no longer putting the same muscle behind its post-9/11 doctrine.
Before recapping this one-sided relationship, a brief history lesson may be helpful.
On September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush unveiled part one of the doctrine that bears his name. “From this day forward,” he declared, “any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” He proceeded to dictate terms to one such regime, demanding that the Taliban government of Afghanistan hand over all al-Qaeda leaders; shut down every terrorist training camp; turn over “every terrorist and every person in their support structure;” and “give the United States full access to terrorist training camps.” His demands, he added, “are not open to negotiation or discussion.”
Days earlier, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell privately delivered a similar list of demands to the man who ruled Afghanistan’s neighbor to the east, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf. Speaking “as one general to another,” as Bob Woodward later quoted him, Powell called on Musharraf to block al-Qaeda operatives at Pakistan’s borders; intercept arms shipments; end logistical support for al Qaeda; grant US forces unfettered access to Pakistani airspace, bases, ports and borderlands; block Pakistani volunteers from crossing into Afghanistan; and end support of the Taliban.[i]
That was a lot to ask of the government that created the Taliban. Bush and Powell knew the demands could topple Musharraf’s ostensibly pro-US regime. But they also knew the time for stability and realpolitik had ended with the maiming of Manhattan.
Musharraf agreed to every demand. The Taliban did not. And as promised, the latter became part of history. But after nearly five years of war, Musharraf is backsliding:
· US forces are not free to move in or above Pakistan in pursuit of the enemy. On some occasions, Pakistani troops have even fired on US forces.
· Musharraf’s military is steering clear of certain tribal areas, thus allowing the Taliban to reconstitute and cross into Afghanistan to destabilize its nascent democracy. Doubtless, these “no go” zones serve as Osama bin Laden’s new home.
· And most ominously, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused Pakistani intelligence of providing military training to pro-Taliban fighters. Islamabad rejects Karzai’s claims as “false and baseless.”[ii]
Whether or not Karzai’s allegations are true, this much we know: Musharraf is flouting both the letter and spirit of Washington’s post-9/11 doctrine, which is why it’s time for a renewal of vows. Washington should measure Musharraf not according to his words, but against Powell’s demands. The Pakistani leader is simply not living up to his post-9/11 promises.
Yet the US has done its part: Earlier this year, the administration agreed to ship dozens of F-16 fighter-bombers to Musharraf. Between 2005 and 2009, the United States will pour $3 billion in economic and military aid into Pakistan. In addition, Washington has lobbied international lenders at the IMF and World Bank to approve $1 billion in loans. And the administration continues to avert its gaze from the fact that having Musharraf’s military junta as an ally in an otherwise noble effort to spread freedom in the Muslim world makes a mockery of that very effort.
In exchange for American beneficence, silence and acquiescence, Musharraf has condemned US air strikes, slurred the US-led war on terror as an assault against Islam, and waged what amounts to a phony war against the al-Qaeda remnants and Taliban leftovers that breed in Pakistan’s borderlands.
This invites a worrisome prospect: Is Musharraf unable to prod his military into capturing bin Laden or unwilling to give his military that order? Neither alternative is comforting. If the former is true, then Pakistan’s military and security forces are beyond the general’s control. If the latter is true, then the general is playing a game with Washington, a game that must come to an end.
Some will say that cutting Musharraf loose would be beneath America. But it pays to recall that after forging an alliance with Stalin's communist dictatorship to wage and win a world war against Germany and Japan, the United States invited Germany and Japan into an alliance to wage and win a cold war against Stalin.
Others will argue that pressing Musharraf opens the door to too many unknowns, that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t—especially a nuclear-armed devil. But it was this very mindset that gave us the Taliban and the Saudi-funded madrassahs, that acquiesced to bin Laden’s global guerilla war, and that once chose Saddam Hussein over the freedom-fighters in Basrah and Kurdistan.
Still others say that bin Laden is so disconnected from the terror superpower he spawned that he is inconsequential to America’s post-9/11 campaign. His recent spate of rants, which bookended Rice’s trip to the region, should disabuse us of the notion that the man who masterminded this war is somehow irrelevant. Indeed, that’s akin to saying that the men who planned and hatched Pearl Harbor were unimportant by the time the tide had turned in the Pacific.
Just as US troops once hunted down and killed Yamamoto, just as they captured Tojo and brought him to justice, they must kill or capture bin Laden—no matter where he is. If Musharraf wants to assist, then now is the time to do so. But if his government is an obstacle to that objective, then, to borrow a phrase, it should “be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
[i] Dan Balz, Bob Woodward and Jeff Himmelman, “Afghan Campaign's Blueprint Emerges,” Washington Post, January 29, 2002.
[ii] VOA News, “Karzai: Pakistan Training Militants, Sending Them to Afghanistan,” 18 May 2006.