- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

For a quarter century, U.S.-Pakistan relations have alternated between episodes of farce and tragedy. Under Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has defied reality to believe that U.S. and Pakistani national interests are identical. Currently, U.S. officials believe these interests are so much in lockstep that they can add untold pressures to the Pakistani leader’s burden and still find him eager to do America’s most important dirty work: Killing Osama bin Laden. Well, think again.

In today’s environment, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is one step ahead of the locomotive largely because he has worked closely with America. Virtually everything Mr. Musharraf has done for America since September 11 runs counter to Pakistan’s national interests and to his survival. Pakistan, for example, had no enemies in the Taliban or al Qaeda until Mr. Musharraf made them such at our behest. Likewise, there could have been no better Afghan government for Pakistan than the Taliban regime, and yet Mr. Musharraf helped America destroy it and replace it with the Karzai regime, a government that has allowed an enormous increase in the Indian presence in Afghanistan.

Thus, at our bidding, Mr. Musharraf wakes up each day facing a blood-feud with domestic and foreign Islamists, as well as the growing presence of Pakistan’s mortal enemy on its western border.

In addition, Mr. Musharraf has for the first time sent the regular army into Pakistan’s largely autonomous frontier provinces to root-out al Qaeda and the Taliban. To date, Pakistan has lost more soldiers killed and wounded than theU.S.-ledcoalitionin Afghanistan. More dangerously, the Musharraf-ordered offensives are stoking the fires of a potential civil war between Islamabad and the Pashtun tribes that dominate much of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pashtun tribal leaders have long dreamed of erasing the arbitrary, British-imposed border and uniting their tribes in a national entity called “Pashtunistan.” Their dream has been quiescent in recent decades for three reasons: preoccupation with the Pashtun-led war against the Soviet occupation; the follow-on, intra-Afghan struggle that saw the Pashtun-dominated Taliban win power; and Islamabad’s wisdom in not trying to impose rule from the center on fiercely independent Pashtuns.

Today, however, the tribals’ dream is being reinvigorated by Mr. Musharraf as he pursues U.S. demands in the border provinces. This scenario is heaven-sent for Pakistan’s enemies, the Karzai regime and India, to fuel Pashtun irredentism. If successful, a detribalized Pashtun and an Indophile would be left with a rump, non-Pashtun dominated country that might, at some point, be governable without Western bayonets. And India would see its Pakistani foe cut geographically in half lengthwise, reducing Islamabad’s domain to an indefensible sliver of territory, faced by angry warlike tribes to the west and a billion-plus, nuclear-armed Indians to the east. For New Delhi, this would be nirvana on earth.

So, amid Mr. Musharraf’s evolving catastrophe, what have his U.S. allies done to help lighten the load of an ally Washington describes as “indispensable”? Well, President Bush visited India before Islamabad and there again declared New Delhi a strategic U.S. partner. Then, as if to ensure Pakistanis did not miss the snub, the president signed a nuclear deal with India that however non-weapons-related its content will be seen by Mr. Musharraf’s fellow generals, the Islamist political parties, and most Pakistanis as giving their enemy a WMD leg-up over Pakistan.

On arriving for a hurried visit to Pakistan, the president spoke the usual boiler plate describing Pakistan as major ally in the war on terrorism, and then asked Mr. Musharraf what all U.S. leaders ask their Pakistani counterparts: “What have you done for me lately?” Mr. Musharraf, reeling from what he has done, was told he must do more to eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban [i.e., provoke the Pashtun tribes], help the anti-Pakistan Karzai regime [i.e., endanger Pakistan’s western border], and to forget the idea of a U.S.-Pakistan nuclear deal like that America signed with India [i.e., get use to your Hindu overseers]. Last but not least, the president said something a kin to: “Pervez, old boy, you really must restore control of Pakistan’s political process to democratically elected civilians. Yes, I know they rob Pakistan blind each time they hold power, but we must keep up the pretense of democracy.”

Like Charlie Brown after Lucy again moves the football, Mr. Musharraf now finds himself flat on his back, wondering what hit him, and watching as Pakistan edges ever closer to dissolution. If it does dissolve, it surely will not be America’s fault; Pakistan’s internal political contradictions, economic problems, and the Homeric venality of its politicians have long caused a steady downward spiral.

What Washington will lose, however, is an ally who, while not remotely perfect, did far more and took more lethal risks to accomplish America’s dirty work than any other of its allies in the war against al Qaedaism, including all of NATO.

Michael F. Scheuer, a 22-year veteran with the CIA, created and served as the chief of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center.

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