Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Bush’s Pakistan policy

President Bush is playing the gotcha game, yet again.

In July, well before Russia invaded Pakistan, he authorized United States Special Operations forces to invade Pakistan at the sound of the word ‘terrorist.’ Then, in August, after Russia was provoked and proceeded to invade Georgia, he criticized their invasion as being “disproportionate and unacceptable.”

Camouflaged in the word ‘freedom’ and seemingly hunting for the word ‘terrorism,’ since Sept. 3, the U.S. has unconditionally invaded and killed 40 people in Pakistan, of whom at least 20 were women or children That, ladies and gents, is ‘disproportionate and unacceptable.’

If the U.S. so strongly supported the territorial integrity of Georgia, a fervent supporter of the U.S.’s crusade against Middle East ‘terrorism’ who, at one time, had as many as 2,000 troops in Iraq alone, then it is bewildering why the U.S. no longer supports the territorial integrity of Pakistan, also a staunch pro-American nation who at one time deployed a troop level 36 times that of Georgia in the name of ‘freedom.’

Sounds paradoxical? Well, not really.

In the eyes of the Bush Administration, Pakistan recently committed the cardinal sin of allowing their people in a truly democratic election to ––guess what–– select a not-so-pro-American government, headed by the late Benazir Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Ali Zardari.

Moreover, Pervez Musharraf’s successor as military chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who at first still seemed loyal to the pro-American precedent set by Musharraf, has proven more moderate and realistic than President Bush had anticipated. With respect to the recent U.S. bombings in Pakistan, Kayani unwaveringly said that “no external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.”

By commanding missions in Pakistan without prior approval by its government, U.S. forces will further destabilize the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan they so dearly want to control. The Pashtun, tribesmen native to northwest Pakistan, have already vowed to pool their resources against an American incursion into their territory, which includes nearly all of the North-West Frontier Province (a 75,000 square-kilometer chunk of Pakistan’s north).

Pakistan’s government is green and must get on its feet before it can readily install a counterterrorist force in its most vulnerable border regions. The U.S. must accept that. And the U.S. policy that will best accomplish its goals of asphyxiating Al-Qaeda’s presence and resources is one that is patient and unimposing on its Pakistani allies.

Several problems, however, still remain. In a recent poll, some 80 percent of Pakistanis do not favor a U.S. strike on Al-Qaeda within their border. The Bush team seems bewildered by this: ‘Why are these guys all-of-a-sudden turning their backs on us when we’ve been training and equipping their military for the past half a decade?’ The simple answer is that Pakistan didn’t really elect former President Musharraf (he seized control in a 1999 military coup d’état) and, hence, the Bush Administration has been clouded by the dictator’s cooperation in his crusade against Middle East ‘terrorism.’ Pakistani’s were rarely, if ever, in favor of Musharraf’s under-the-table dealings with the United States. By 2007, Musharraf’s approval rating was nearly as poor as Bush’s, at a measly 34.8 percent according to Dawn, Pakistan’s most respected English news network.

The more complex answer delves into the nature of the relationship the Musharraf-led government had with Al-Qaeda, a dangerous precedent that persists today. Leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, former Inter-Services Intelligences head (the Pakistani CIA) Mahmud Ahmed had fueled $100,000 from the government to the pocket of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. Though he was fired, this was not until 2004, nearly 4 years after the money was appropriated.

The ISI and, by extension, the Pakistani government still somewhat follow this precedent. However, nowadays it is not followed to fund jihadist proxies, but followed to calm the tribesmen nervous of an American presence. If the government were not to delicately move away from this precedent (i.e. following a haste, here-and-now U.S. policy), it is likely that the region would erupt in a tribal war, consequently putting potential U.S. forces there in a deadly situation.

The Pakistani government and its people feel, and rightly so, that they are being oppressed by the U.S. invasion of their territory. Whatever the U.S. does, the Pakistanis must follow suit. Thus, they also feel that the wars in the north (i.e. ‘War on Terrorism’) against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not theirs to fight.

So before President Bush leaves office in less than four months and northern Pakistan in a chaotic, bomb-ridden mess, he can walk up to Mr. Zardari, tag his arm and instead of saying ‘Now it’s your problem,’ he can say, ‘Gotcha!’

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