Friday, September 05, 2008

The Pakistan war

Pakistan, a country that is a staunch ally of the US in the war on terror / the protectors of bin Laden and al Qaida a complicated place where the US remains clueless, seems about to elect 'Iron Man' Zardari as president, replacing the US's ex-best buddy, Musharraf. A new best buddy, how exciting!

Syed Saleem Shahzad, reporting at the Asia Times, says of Zardari:
Although he is presently holed up in the premier's residence for fear of his safety from militant attacks, he has the security apparatus largely in check to force it to abandon its reservations about the "war on terror".
This would mean both renewed attacks on the tribal regions by Pakistani troops, as well as cross border incursions by NATO and Afghan troops.

Both of these have recently occurred. A sustained attack by the Pakistan army, including aircraft, in Bajaur caused about 300,000 refugees. It has been called off, supposedly to allow the refugees to return home for Ramadan (there was also an outbreak of cholera in the refugee camps). Then, a cross-border incursion by US and Afghan troops killed about 20 Pakistanis, including women and children, and caused such a ruckus that the US ambassador was summoned for an official protest.

This all follows:
Barely a week after a meeting on the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean between the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, to discuss infiltration points for militants going from Pakistan to Afghanistan and to pin-point al-Qaeda training camps, American special forces carried out two attacks inside Pakistan.
It seems like déjà vu all over again, the president strong man does and says one thing, while the rest of Pakistan's politicians remain strongly against escalating the war into their country. Mr. Shahzad believes that Zardari will prevail:
With his fingers firmly on the levers of power, and with strong American backing, Zardari will lead Pakistan into a new and potentially extremely bloody chapter of which the US special forces' raids into the country are just the beginning.
Musharraf, while toeing the US line on the surface, had the wit to prevent cross border raids, and to keep military pressure on the tribal lands balanced with negotiating and compromise. If Zardari remains a tool of the Americans, there is an extreme risk of widespread revolt in Pakistan. The consequences could both destroy the Pakistan state, such as it is, as well as doom the Afghan war for the US in the short term (it's doomed in the long term, anyway).

So, one might logically ask, why the hell is the US doing this? Is the state of the Afghan war already so precarious that it's necessary to gamble on turning Pakistan into a failed state?


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