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Tuesday Jul 10, 2007

The Sorry History of Bush's Pakistan Policy

Following Sunday's NY Times report that "A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan," it seemed appropriate to recap the history of the White House's relationship with Pakistan.

***

December 2004: LiberalOasis flags that the Bush Administration has given Pakistan a veto over our national security, when the NY Times reported:

Pakistan does not permit American military and intelligence forces in Afghanistan to cross the border to go after militants...

...As a result of the restrictions, American military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan are no longer really hunting for Mr. bin Laden, an intelligence official said.

Sometime between January 2005 and March 2005: According to the July 8, 2007 NY Times story, this is when the Bush Administration "aborted" an operation to "capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas" at a "meeting of Qaeda leaders" where "intelligence officials had unusually high confidence that [Osama bin Laden's top deputy Ayman al] Zawahri was there."

Why? In large part because then-Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was "concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas."

February 2005: LiberalOasis cites reports that Pakistan is literally giving money to Al Qaeda via payments to tribal militants, as part of a "peace deal" -- just a few weeks after Dubya praises Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts.

March 2005: The Washington Post reports:

President Bush rewarded a key ally in the war on terrorism Friday by authorizing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, a move that reversed 15 years of policy begun under his father and that India warned would destabilize the volatile region...

..."This is just a disastrous thing," said [former Sen. Larry] Pressler, who now sits on the board of an Indian technology company. "It raises Pakistan, a country that doesn't stand for anything we stand for, to the level of India," the world's largest democracy. "It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism." Instead, he said, "it gives Pakistan a delivery vehicle for its nuclear weapons."...

...[Secretary of State Condi] Rice also pushed [Pakistan President] Musharraf, an army general who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, to commit to holding elections in 2007, and administration officials cited his assurance in announcing the F-16 sale Friday.

September 2006: LiberalOasis highlights that Pakistan signed another "peace deal" with tribal militants that "fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaida fighters" -- a deal that was struck, according to McClatchy Newspapers, "with the Bush administration's encouragement."

A week later, Dubya says that sending a large number of special forces to "hunt" down Osama was "not a top priority use of American resources." A week after that, Bush publicly endorses the "tribal deal."

July 9, 2007: Karl Rove, responding to a question by NBC's Andrea Mitchell at an event in Aspen about the aborted 2005 operation, says (via MSNBC's Countdown):

The United States has concerns about taking unilateral action in a sovereign nation without their approval, and uh, so this has always been the difficulty we have with, uh -- unless, of course it's Saddam Hussein.

The audience reacted in laughter.

***

The point of recapping all of these sorry shennanigans is that to criticize the Bush Administration for failing to pull the trigger in 2005 is not a matter of second-guessing inherently tough intelligence calls -- the way conservatives have done with the Clinton Administration's counterterrorism record.

This is a case of a deeply flawed conservative foreign policy.

This conserative foreign policy prioritizes misguided geopolitical goals ahead of actual threats to national security.

The Bush Administration gives Pakistan a veto over our national security, sends Pakistan goodies,while literally encouraging Pakistan to appease Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, it embarks on a permanent occupation of Iraq that has created additional terrorists.

Also, this conservative foreign policy does not actually promote democracy

The Bush Administration has continually propped up the Pakistan dictatorship and done nothing to push for democratic reforms.

As noted above, We gave them F-16s two years ago presumably for free elections this year. Instead, Pakistan is in political turmoil because Musharraf has been trying to consolidate his dictatorial power, with nary a peep from the White House.

This aborted Pakistan operation in 2005 is no isolated incident. It's a crystallization of an utterly immoral and impratical conservative foreign policy, which has only brought more terrorists and more instability.

Posted by Bill Scher on Jul 10, 2007 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Foreign Policy/ Pakistan/ Terrorism
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