- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2001

How long does the United States need to be deceived before it confronts Pakistan about the lies? That is the logical question following revelations by this newspaper's reporter Bill Gertz that elements within the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have been secretly sending military goods to the Taliban. This is in violation of both a U.N. resolution barring such arms transfers as well as Pakistan's promise to back the U.S. military strikes. While it is unclear whether President Pervez Musharraf had direct knowledge of the transfers or it has been done behind his back, one thing is clear: Pakistanis have consistently aided the Taliban and violated the interests of the United States. Therefore, the next question is, is Pakistan for us or against us?

When Gen. Musharraf first stated Sept. 19 what the Bush administration called "support" for the United States, he bragged: "I have done everything for Afghanistan and Taliban when the entire world is against them. I have met about 20 to 25 world leaders and talked to each of them in favor of the Taliban. I have told them that sanctions should not be imposed on Afghanistan and that we should engage them. I have been repeating this stance before all leaders, but I am sorry to say that none of our friends accepted this."

Will U.S. officials start listening to what Gen. Musharraf has really been saying all along? Perhaps not. In one breath on Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that Pakistan is supplying covert military aid to the Taliban militia, and then he praised the Pakistani government for its support of the United States. What is wrong with this picture? It is understandable that, for the first few weeks after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration was swayed by Gen. Musharraf's courtship. He called for Osama bin Laden's indictment, he fired top intelligence and military officials who were sympathetic to the Taliban, and he outlawed calling for holy war on mosque sound systems. But it is clear that, even if he didn't know about the arms deals, he has not been able to stop them. The undercover operations take place at night along the Pakistani-Afghan border. The Deccan Herald of Bangalore stated that the arms were being disguised as U.N. humanitarian supplies. Meanwhile, the State Department is confident that the Pakistani government is cracking down on such operations.

Well, such confidence may be dangerous. After all, Pakistan sheltered bin Laden in the 1980s, and, as a Muslim nation sympathetic to the Taliban's cause, Pakistan has great interest in keeping the Taliban around. It has only been six weeks since President Bush warned all those who would support or harbor terrorists, such as al Qaeda and the Taliban: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Pakistan must be posed that ultimatum again and this time, Pakistan must answer honestly. Pakistan is handing weapons to U.S. enemies with one hand, and shaking the United States' hand in friendship with the other. The United States cannot continue to be complacent while Pakistan does both.


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