Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MUSHARRAF'S LAST STAND?....What's up with the recent peace deal between the Pakistani government and the Taliban-friendly tribal leaders in Waziristan, the area on the Afghanistan border that's home to most of the al-Qaeda leaders who fled after the American invasion? Here is the Asia Times:

With a truce between the Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad now in place, the Pakistani government is in effect reverting to its pre-September 11, 2001, position in which it closed its eyes to militant groups allied with al-Qaeda and clearly sided with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

....The truce between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan has been a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, although Pakistan's pledge to allow foreign troops based in Afghanistan hot pursuit into a limited area in Pakistan softens the blow a bit.

That sums up most of the conventional wisdom I've read. But then there's India Defense, which claims the whole thing was orchestrated by America's very own General John Abizaid:

Sources in Rawalpindi the Headquarters of the Pakistani Army indicate that the plan was directly dictated by Abizaid during his recent visit to Pakistan, and is said to put both the Musharraf Regime and War Against Terror in more secure positions.

....Pakistani analysts argue that the granting of 'hot pursuit' into Pakistani territory to the United States Forces in the Taliban controlled FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) was one of Musharraf's last remaining cards....and with this concession to the American forces in Afghanistan Musharraf may well and truly won himself more time in office.

I haven't the faintest idea which of these analyses is true. Maybe both, to some degree. But I thought it was worthwhile to at least point out that there are multiple interpretations of what's going on here. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:48 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Posted by: the eug on September 8, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Winning himself more time in office for what exactly and for how long? He bought some time but beyond that I am unsure as juss how he is going to regain any popular support at home while at the same being in our best interests. Our most important 'ally' in the War on Terra is lil more than an autocratic dictator who has no real support amongst his people. Reason #3,847 why the War on Terra is nothing more than a fucking myth.

Posted by: robbymack on September 8, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

...and with this concession to the American forces in Afghanistan Musharraf may well and truly won himself more time in office.

I don't get this at all. Is this person saying American can overthrow Musharraf anytime it wants? From whom is Musharraf buying time? Seems to me we need Musharraf as much as he needs us, because if Musharraf were to depart the scene and were Pakistan destabilized, we might well be looking at a quasi-Jihadist regime in Islamabad one of these days. And then we're fucked but good, seein' as they would have nukes and all (this is surely one of the two or three most dire scenarios that keeps security officials up at night).

A chap on the BBC the other night gave what I think is a more plausible explanation. It's not that the US who allowed anything, but rather it's the Pakistanis doing alone. They want favorable relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, among other reasons because they feel they can hardly afford to have a highly hostile, troublesome neighbor to their rear while they face a nuclear-armed India right in front of them. Anyway, if you want to curry favor with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it's not a bad idea to make nice with their Pakistani cousins. Plus, the Taliban are probably not the least bit upset with Musharraf's hot pursuit green light to Uncle Sam, because the Taliban welcome the fight, and the opportunity to kill zionist infidel crusaders.

Posted by: 99 on September 8, 2006 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

I don't really get this either.

But I take it to mean that Musharraf bought some time until a coup by the Taliban-friendly Pakistani military by holding out this olive branch (except for the secret 'hot pursuit' clause). Yes?

Posted by: Garamond12 on September 8, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Good God!

I've never yet got a response about the varied translations of Iran's President's speeches. Why would you think we would get an educated and informed response about what Musharraf actually said?

I only expect inaccuracy from the West, propaganda from the Middle East (Jew, Muslim or Christian), and hype from other media.

We need a real FREE PRESS. Something we've lost.

Hey! Stay Tuned!

To What?

Posted by: notthere on September 8, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Makes sense to me. With the utter failure that is Iraq, the WH has made the determination that the only way to save GWB's presidency -- and keep the Dems from retaking Congress and impeaching the bastard -- is to do what they should have done almost five years ago -- finish the job in Afganistan and get OBL. So now all the stops are being pulled out, which includes no longer outsourcing the task to Pakistan.

Posted by: Disputo on September 8, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

Osama bin Laden is a crucial, indispensible bogeyman for the Bush administration. The reason the Bush administration let bin Laden go when they had him cornered in Afghanistan is that they knew most people would have considered that "mission accomplished" in a very real sense, and it would have been impossible to sell the war in Iraq (not to mention all those juicy no-bid Halliburton contracts).

This is the same reason the Bush administration passed numerous times on killing al-Zarqawi - he was a critical component of the argument for the war in Iraq.

If you kill OBL, it becomes almost exponentially more difficult to sell the Global War on Terror. Killing OBL is playing the ultimate political trump card - it won't be used unless absolutely necessary, e.g. a 'get out of impeachment' card, a 'defeat Hillary' card, and/or a 'preserve my legacy in the last few months of office' card.

But don't hold your breath - ideally, Bush would like to pass the card on to the next Republican president.

Posted by: Augustus on September 8, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Very savvy move on both sides

Musharraf gets a deal w/the Taliban so he doesn`t have to keep as many of his troops in these areas, there won`t be as much active disruption and the "locals" will be happier (consider it a "breather" for him & his)

With the Iraqi "Army" standing up (sorta) the powers that be can move some of the U.S. forces to Afghanistan along the border to play "hot pursuit" games w/the dipsticks that think they are gonna run and hide across the border & live to kill another day

Surprise !!; "Welcome to Allah Land & pick up your 72 virgins over there !"

This is going to be very interesting to watch; Abizaid is no dummy & I`ll bet there are some "behind the curtain" details we don`t know about

"Hot pursuit", BTW, doesn`t just mean boots on ground for those of you at home in the basement

"If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough," - Robert Cap

Posted by: daCascadian on September 8, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Augustus, I fully agree; it is just my sense that the WH is preparing to play the "get out of impeachment" card at the end of Oct if necessary, and it hasn't ever looked more necessary.

I don't think gays and flag burning is gonna cut it. And invading Iran will just serve to send oil through the roof.

Posted by: Disputo on September 8, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

that second interpretation sounds ludicrous.

one thing that often gets forgotten is that pakistan and the taliban are often the same. and by that i mean the same people.

Posted by: Marc on September 8, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Augustus you are a crazy moonbat infidel. Mehlman has me working for the GOP this fall. The republicans maintain control of Congress and Bush assists me with my global jihad thing. It is a win-win as you say.

oh and death to America

Posted by: O. bin Ladin on September 8, 2006 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Like others, I don't (totally) buy the India Defense angle. The treaty itself, yes, would buy Musharraf more time in office, perhaps, if it didn't have the hot pursuit sidebar attached.

The only way it helps Musharaff with that included is if he has some secret codicil with Abizaid (or, to be precise, with someone much higher up the U.S. food chain) is if we agree never to actually invoke it.

But, even that doesn't really explain anything. The only way such a codicil could help Pakistani President Perv (c'mon, you've wanted to say that before) is if he reveals such a secret codicil, which then makes it worthless to us. Obviously, that's not the case.

So, I'm back to square one. I don't get how this helps President Perv.

Posted by: Socratic Gadfly on September 8, 2006 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you missed the second story in the Asia Times piece completely, about Ralph Peters' statement that some South Asian borders need to be redrawn. The new agreement between Pakistan and Waziristan could be seen in part as a push-back against such Washington talk, as well as President Perv deciding it's time to strike a more independent attitude in general.

Posted by: Socratic Gadfly on September 8, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

This could also represent intertribal politics. President Perv's agreement w/Abizaid is ONLY for the FATA and covers neither North nor South Waziristan.

Personal political axes to grind? Different strengths of local power bases? I can think of a number of reasons why the two areas would be treated differently.

Posted by: Socratic Gadfly on September 8, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

"with this concession to the American forces in Afghanistan Musharraf may well and truly won himself more time in office."

To surrender sovereignty and allow US forces, not exactly known for their great respect of muslims, to roam freely will win more time for a dictator who is facing a huge and violent islamic movement? Well, is it only me who thinks this is mindboggling and a sure path towards revolution and civil war in Pakistan???

Posted by: Gray on September 8, 2006 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

Pakistan is the most dangerous country on this planet. Anyone who thinks otherwise has very poor risk assessment skills. Why we didn't and still don't, march and airlift several combat battalions into Pakistan and root out bin Laden and Company is insane. What are they gonna do, nuke us? We would then turn the little turd of a country into the largest pile of radioactive rubble in history.

Posted by: Bernie on September 8, 2006 at 6:23 AM | PERMALINK

Leaving aside the geopolitics of it I hope whoever and whatever is guiding this understands what thoseregions are like. The British Empire tried pacifying the area for decades and gave up: thats why they are still tribal lands.
Just isnt easy country (or an easy population) to impose rule over. The Pakistanis havent even tried in the past 60 years, for good reason perhaps?

Posted by: failingeconomist on September 8, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Major Raplh Peters? Wasn't he the guy who, a few months back, took some tour of Baghdad for a few days and then published some article (to generous acclaim from the Right) that the place was safer than Detroit, or some such nonsense?

Sheeesh - don't these Great Game neo-imperialists ever learn? Check out the core grapf from the Asia Times:

Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, where he was responsible for future warfare, argues that borders in the Middle East and Africa are "the most arbitrary and distorted" in the world and need restructuring.

Four countries - Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - are singled out for major readjustments. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are also defined as "unnatural states".

Though the US State Department was quick to deny that such ideas had anything to do with US policymaking, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey read much between the lines of talk of restructuring their boundaries.

Among Peters' proposals was the need to establish "an independent Kurdish state" that would "stretch from Diyarbakir [eastern Turkey] through Tabriz [Iran], which would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan".

Of course, since Saudi Arabia and Turkey (not to mention Pakistan) are nominally allies of the US, one presumes that their cooperation with these *ahem* "adjustments" to their borders would be a prerequisite.... ?

Swell: why does anyone still give these clowns pagespace for this garbage!

Posted by: Jay C on September 8, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Ooops: HTML error: the quote from the Asia Times was the part ending with "...between Bulgaria and Japan" and should have been all bolded. Sorry.

Posted by: Jay C on September 8, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

So the repugs are cutting deals with a country that is providing tangible aid to our greatest enemy - a country that already has nuclear weapons and has even tested them - while rattling their tiny sabers at a country that is an avowed enemy of both bin Laden and the Taliban and that is years away from producing a nuclear weapon.

Shumer, Emmanuel: Why aren't you screaming this from the advertising rooftops?

Posted by: Yellow Dog on September 8, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Standard organizational retsructuring. When one is going to eliminate a toxic, nonfunctional, or simply obsolete segment of business or staff, the first task is to remove the people you want to retain, align the obsolete organization into a discreet line of business, staff with people you no longer desire, and clarify the boundaries. First reorganize and isolate, then prune.

Posted by: kck on September 8, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Yellow, don't forget that Pakistan is also the state sponsor of the terrorists who keep bombing India.

GWB ctting deals with terrorists. Who woulda thunk it?

Posted by: Disputo on September 8, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

It makes sense. Musharraf gets more support from the military because he withdraws troops from a situation in which they have to fight the Taliban and maybe get killed. So the Army is happy about withdrawal and will support him a bit longer and protect him against overthrow. There will also be less agitation for his overthrow from the tribal (Pashtun) areas.

The US is "happy" because it can ostensibly have "hot pursuit" into Pakistan when chasing al Qaida (i.e., Arabs). The Pakistani gov't doesn't care about the Arabs, only the Pashtuns. But it is really a sham, because any serious US incursions would be met with hostility by the Pashtuns on both sides of the border and the Pakistani military will not be there to help us.


Posted by: Mimikatz on September 8, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think that Pakistan granting safe haven to Osama bin Laden on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 would be the biggest media firestorm ever, both for actual significance and symbolism. Bigger, anyway than kangaroo courts for some AQ second bananas and a partisan polemic masquerading as a 9/11 TV documentary. But no indignant crowing from the Dems or spluttering denials from the White House. So maybe the decks are being cleared for some desperate special forces blitz into the tribal areas to deliver that October surprise that Bush hopes will rinse away the sour taste of Iraq.

Posted by: Peter on September 8, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Peter, bingo. And when the US wants to get about to fininshing the job in Waziristan we won't be wanting any help from the Pakastani army. The path seems to be clearing.

Posted by: kck on September 8, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect a more limited interpretation of this agreement is probably the correct one. If we can figure out that limited hot pursuit places top al Qaeda types in Waziristan at risk from American forces based in Afghanistan, so can bin Laden. Pakistan is a big country; he'll just move, if he hasn't already.

However, Taliban forces now active in southern Afghanistan have been operating in large enough groups to be visible to American air reconnaisance as they organize and cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan. It appears that what "limited hot pursuit" would allow is for suspected concentrations of Taliban fighters to be attacked from the air inside Pakistan. This could disrupt Taliban operations and buy coalition and government forces in southern Afghanistan some time to reestablish some stability.

Posted by: Zathras on September 8, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

With all due respect, all this stuff about "hot pursuit" is 100% nonsense.

Musharraf has explicitly said he will not allow it. See my comment here.

And see Bill Roggio's analysis at the top of the referenced thread.

Posted by: jukeboxgrad on September 8, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Jay C, that's the same nutbar Ralph Peters. That's why I noted it just before you did.

Jukebox, thanks for the info. It seems the Indian news source is doing some spinning for home consumption there, as otherwise, taking out the hot pursuit clause, the rest of this story is surely making New Delhi pretty much batshit right now, and with at least halfway good reason.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 8, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

socratic: "spinning for home consumption"

Sounds plausible.

Some might be interested in my further analysis of this subject: "Bush: creating the world's first radical Islamic nuclear power"

Please excuse the shameless self-promotion:

Posted by: jukeboxgrad on September 8, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting comments. I wrote about them from a Pakistani perspective on www.theindividual.wordpress.com .Might be helpful.........

Posted by: The indvidual on September 8, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

The simplist explanation for the story is Pakistan turning over to U.S. forces the job of attacking Al-Queda/Taliban forces in the border region of Pakistan.

'Autonomy' cuts two ways. The border zone will see the Pakistani Army removed, but the border zone will also be on it's own against attacking American forces. The Pakistani government will no longer shield the Taliban sanctuary inside Pakistan's borders. About damn time.

Posted by: Brad on September 9, 2006 at 4:34 AM | PERMALINK

brad: "The Pakistani government will no longer shield the Taliban sanctuary inside Pakistan's borders."

Please be sure to continue to pay no attention whatsoever to what I said exactly four comments before yours.

Posted by: jukeboxgrad on September 9, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Unlimited rapid access to a certain section of Pakistani territory. ???

Could Osama be hiding there?

There are just two ways that Bush can hold the House.

1. Capture Osama
2, Another terrorist attack in US

Posted by: Paul on September 10, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK



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