Gareth Porter today examines the deeply flawed relationship between Musharraf of Pakistan and the Bush administration - one that sacrificed US national security for the mere appearance of alliance.
The problem faced by the Bush administration when it came into office was that the Pakistani military, over which Musharraf presided, was the real terrorist nexus with the Taliban and al Qaeda. As Bruce Riedel, National Security Council (NSC) senior director for South Asia in the Bill Clinton administration, who stayed on the NSC staff under the Bush administration, observed in an interview with this writer last September, al Qaeda "was a creation of the jihadist culture of the Pakistani army".
If there was a state sponsor of al Qaeda, Riedel said, it was the Pakistani military, acting through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate.
... For the next few years, Musharraf played a complicated game. The CIA was allowed to operate in Pakistan's border provinces to pursue al Qaeda operatives, but only as long as they had ISI units accompanying them. That restricted their ability to gather intelligence in the northwest frontier. At the same time, ISI was allowing Taliban and al Qaeda leaders to operate freely in the tribal areas and even in Karachi.
The Bush administration also gave Musharraf and the military regime a free ride on the A. Q. Khan network's selling of nuclear technology to Libya and Iran, even though there was plenty of evidence that the generals had been fully aware of and supported Khan's activities.
Journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins wrote in their book "The Nuclear Jihadist" that one retired general who had worked with Khan told them there was no question that Khan had acted with the full knowledge of the military leadership. "Of course the military knew," the general said. "They helped him."
But the Bush administration chose to help Musharraf cover up that inconvenient fact.
I hope all the Bush-cheerleaders who backed Musharraf simply because Bush called the ex-dictator a bulwark against terrorism are thoroughly ashamed of their support for such an amazingly dangerous lie. The motive for that cover up seems to have been providing an appearance of progress in the War on Terror rather than an actuality. Style over substance. But Musharraf's Pakistan gave nuclear know-how to Iran, North Korea and Libya as well as providing safe haven to myriad of Islamic extremist terrorist groups.
Still, I really don't expect the situation under Zardari, a man who is legendary for his corruption in a land of incredibly corrupt politicians, to improve any. Which mounts a serious challenge to the foreign policy plans of both the presidential candidates. Does either have the courage to call a spade a spade and to call Pakistan a major sponsor of terrorism?