MIRANSHAH, North Waziristan – With a truce between the Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad now in place, the Pakistani government is in effect reverting to its pre-September 11, 2001, position in which it closed its eyes to militant groups allied with al-Qaeda and clearly sided with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
While the truce has generated much attention, a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad’s relations with Washington beyond the point of no return.
On Tuesday, Pakistan agreed to withdraw its forces from the restive Waziristan tribal areas bordering Afghanistan in return for a pledge from tribal leaders to stop attacks by Pakistani Taliban across the border.
Most reports said that the stumbling block toward signing this truce had been the release of tribals from Pakistani custody. But most tribals had already been released.
The main problem – and one that has been unreported – was to keep Pakistan authorities’ hands off members of banned militant organizations connected with al-Qaeda.
Thus, for example, it has now been agreed between militants and Islamabad that Pakistan will not arrest two high-profile men on the “most wanted” list that includes Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Saud Memon and Ibrahim Choto are the only Pakistanis on this list, and they will be left alone. Saud Memon was the owner of the lot where US journalist Daniel Pearl was tortured, executed and buried in January 2002 in Karachi after being kidnapped by jihadis.
Pakistan has also agreed that many people arrested by law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan will be released from jail.
Importantly, this includes Ghulam Mustafa, who was detained by Pakistani authorities late last year. Mustafa is reckoned as al-Qaeda’s chief in Pakistan. (See Al-Qaeda’s man who knows too much, Asia Times Online, January 5. As predicted in that article, Mustafa did indeed disappear into a “black hole” and was never formally charged, let alone handed over to the US.)
Asia Times Online contacts expect Mustafa to be released in the next few days. He was once close to bin Laden and has intimate knowledge of al-Qaeda’s logistics, its financing and its nexus with the military in Pakistan.
So, if we’re keeping score: Bush has let Afghanistan slip back into being primarily controlled by the Taliban and poppy growing war lords, Iraq seems caught up in never ending civil strife(war), and Pakistan is not just signed off on a peace agreement with Al-Queda associated groups in Pakistan, but is also going to release those that they have captured.
I learned a lot of lessons on 9/11, and one lesson is this: In order to protect this country, we will keep steady pressure, unrelenting pressure on al Qaeda and its associates. We will deny them safe haven; we will find them and we will bring them to justice. – George Bush, Thursday September 7, 2006
President Bush and President Musharraf have affirmed the long-term, strategic partnership between their two countries. In 2004, the United States acknowledged its aspirations for closer bilateral ties with Pakistan by designating Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally. The U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership is based on the shared interests of the United States and Pakistan in building stable and sustainable democracy and in promoting peace and security, stability, prosperity, and democracy in South Asia and across the globe.
The two leaders are determined to strengthen the foundation for a strong, stable, and enduring relationship. This will require a significant expansion of U.S.-Pakistan bilateral economic ties, including mutual trade and investment. As a key step in this direction the United States and Pakistan are making meaningful progress toward concluding a Bilateral Investment Treaty. – Joint Statement on United States-Pakistan Strategic Partnership March 4, 2006 Office of the Press Secretary
It may tempting to jump to the conclusion that Bush and associates are incompetent. That would be a mistake. The president of the U. S. has some tremendous resources to call upon to deal with situations like those in Pakistan. To say that Bush has simply dropped the ball in Pakistan or Afghanistan is also to say that the CIA, the NSA and diplomatic channels did not inform him of the situation there as events were unfolding. President Action Figure has to date chose not to take action or even take public notice. Since the administration was quick to congratulate itself for contributing to the disruption of the recent British terror plot with the clear implication that they have everything under control it would take some momentus pretzel twisting to explain away an allies partial surrender to terrorists. If America’s ruling party could see past its partisanship and delusions of infallibility there would be some accounting demanded from Bush for losing the battle against Al-Queda in Pakistan. The Taliban now has an official safe haven provided by an ally that Bush has heaped no small amount of praise on, as have conservatives like Hugh Hewitt at Townhall. Again this isn’t simple incompetence, this is conservatism in action.
That little bit of momentum that the Whitehouse was hoping for as it owned up to secret prisons and certain “procedures” used in interrogations didn’t last long, Lawyers and G.O.P. Chiefs Resist Proposal on Tribunal
“It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has played a key role in the drafting of alternative legislation as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a military judge. “ ‘Trust us, you’re guilty, we’re going to execute you, but we can’t tell you why’? That’s not going to pass muster; that’s not necessary.”
While not in the least a Lindsay Graham fan at least he and some of the Pentagon’s legal experts are speaking up. As expected some conservative bloggers don’t have a problem with pointing a finger at someone one day and executing them the next. Civilized people call that murder. The operative word here is civilized, … and then of course there’s Pro-Bush Derangement Syndrome