January 28, 2004

Pakistan by October, Bin Laden by November

Blogger Dan Drezner quotes from a Chicago Tribune article that reports the U.S. is preparing for a military offensive in Pakistan before the election. Or at the very least, the Dept. of Defense is under orders to...give the President options. While the media talks about John Edwards' folksy rhetorical style and John Kerry's dignified hairdo, the U.S. has come close to suffering a major strategic blow in Pakistan. Twice in the last two months, terrorists have tried to kill Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. Even if you don't wholly buy into the "War on Terror" Pakistan DOES have the bomb...and a lot of angry terrorists. They're angry that Musharraf has cooperated with the U.S. WOT. My contact in the Army, who spent nine months in Afghanistan as part of an anti-terror unit, tells me that the U.S. already operates in Pakistani territory...chasing down Taliban remnants who cross back and forth over the border into Afghanistan. But straying across the border for a few days while the Pakistani's look the other way is completely different than conducting a major operation in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the full support of the Pakistani government. It's a huge gamble for Musharraf. But then again, he must be feeling like it's a better gamble than waiting around to be killed by his own countrymen (or bin Laden's sympathizers). Musharraf is acting like a man who can't afford to hedge his bets anymore. He's laying his money down with the West. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Musharraf admitted that Pakistani scientists had sold nuclear secrets...to Europeans. In fact, it's an interesting sub-story that's naturally gotten very little press in Europe. Pakistan's daily, The News, reported this week that the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan had "direct ties with international black market dealers who sold non-peaceful nuclear technology and hardware to Iran and Libya. Tha paper also says the good Dr. is "reported to have offered similar deals to Syria and former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein." Musharraf made the mea culpa in public, and then asked the obvious question. He said Pakistan was willing to share the blame for the proliferation of nuclear technology...but why was there no uproar in Europe that in was European middle-men who put the Pakistani doctor in touch with interested buyers? It's a pretty good question. In the meantime, it looks to me like he's given the Bush administration a convenient excuse to shift the focus away from the fact that Iraq has no WMDs and TO the fact that Pakistan does...and is besieged by dangerous Islamists...whom its courageous President has graciously invited us to help him destroy, in the name of regional security, nuclear non-proliferation, at the war on terror (three for three and a clean political sweep.) Oh yeah...and then there's bin Laden...Bush could be thinking that (a) conducting a joint operation with a willing partner is a lot easier than say, taking down Syria by November, (b) it sure would be nice to catch bin Laden before the election, and (c) just in case the transition of power in Iraq is neither peaceful nor entirely successful, this would be one way to "maintain America's focus in the wider war on terror" or, perhaps, divert attention away from one major strategic move by initiating another. Here's what the Trib article said: "The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said. "U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified. As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea. "Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the 'spring offensive,' the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is 'not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now.'"


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