Thursday, March 27, 2008

After all these years, is the Bush administration's Pakistan policy finally coming unstuck?

Pakistan's newly elected government was sworn in this week, with a new prime minister and cabinet leaving President Musharraf increasingly isolated and losing control over key appointments in the military and intelligence agencies. According to the Washington Post, it's no coincidence that the U.S. is stepping up its controversilal Predator strikes in the tribal regions.
The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country, according to U.S. officials.

Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf, who has generally supported the U.S. strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead, and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda's network now, the officials said.

Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft are known to have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives. The moves followed a tacit understanding with Musharraf and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani that allows U.S. strikes on foreign fighters operating in Pakistan, but not against the Pakistani Taliban, the officials said.
The Post's rather myopic coverage of the strikes only mentions in passing the sudden visit to Pakistan this week by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher to meet with Pakistani officials. In a post titled "A Failed Mission to Pakistan," Bernhard at Moon of Alabama provides more information, along with lots of links to Pakistani and other alternate sources, but also a blunt assessment.
In what looks like an emergency mission, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher yesterday descended on Pakistan. Reviewing Pakistani news sources, the mission seems to have failed.
Check out the post and the comments. It looks as if Musharraf's days are numbered, and since the administration put all its Pakistani eggs in one basket, the same seems to be true of a cornerstone of their GWOT policy. Just one more way that events elsewhere in the world continue to affect the U.S. while most of us don't even notice, distracted as we are by the media circus that passes for coverage of the presidential primaries.

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