View Full Version : U.S. Quagmire

06-16-2007, 08:08 PM
US quagmire



The wave of visits by high-ranking US officials to Pakistan has been raising many eyebrows and producing a tremendous amount of speculation as to what their agendas are and what messages they bring with them from Washington. Friday saw the arrival of US Central Command (Centcom) commander as well as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, joining Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher who is already in the country holding talks with various Pakistani officials. According to the official stance, the visits, at least those of the two who arrived on Friday, are part of the second round of strategic dialogue between the US and Pakistan. However, for them to be in Pakistan at the same time as Boucher, does, understandably, raise some suspicion of there being other, unpublicised, points on the agenda. Many are saying that the US is upping the pressure on President General Musharraf to ensure that the upcoming elections in the country are held in a free and fair manner and that the media is allowed to function without undue restrictions. This view is corroborated by the fact that, earlier this week, while meeting the Chief Election Commissioner, Boucher had said that he 'hoped' that the upcoming elections in Pakistan would be up to 'international standards' in terms of being free, fair and transparent. He also went on to say that the US would have observers in place to monitor the election process.

However, for that to be the sole agenda of the visits is a bit far-fetched, to say the least. The point that keeps coming forward is the increasing pressure on the US, internally and internationally, to reconsider its strong post 9/11 support for General Musharraf in light of the recent judicial crisis and the action against the freedom of the press. But Boucher's statement in the press yesterday, that the issue of Musharraf shedding his uniform is less important than the holding of free and fair elections, is markedly strange and indicative of the unwillingness, or, more importantly, the inability of the US to leave Musharraf completely in the lurch. The situation in Afghanistan has not improved at all, and, if anything, has been on a steady decline. President Karzai, the US' man in Kabul, just recently escaped an assassination attempt by the Taliban. The resurrection of the Taliban's insurgency in Afghanistan is unquestionable, which means that, contrary to many speculations, Musharraf's, and, for that matter, Pakistan's, utility for the US is far from over. The arrival of Centcom's commander along with political figures is indicative of the dual political/military role that Washington now finds itself having to play in regards to Pakistan. A completely civilian set-up may not have the stability to do the things the US needs Pakistan to do to help its flagging mission in Afghanistan. Hence, Musharraf, for the US, needs to stay, for which Washington needs to hammer out a deal with the President General, allowing continued support for him without inviting international and domestic ire. Keeping in mind this view, the speculations that the US was playing mediator in a potential deal between Benazir Bhutto, known to be the most pro-west leader in Pakistan, and Musharraf, its military ally for the past six years, may not be that outrageous after all.