- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf chose an utterly bizarre time to release and promote his memoir “In the Line of Fire.” Embroiled in a vital war against radical terrorism, Pakistan has handed over control of the northern region of its country, known as North Waziristan, to the Taliban and has seen its intelligence service, the ISI, infiltrated by radicals, according to a recent report from the RAND corporation.

The book was occasioned primarily by Gen. Musharraf’s perceived need to refute claims made by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his autobiography, released in Pakistan several months ago. But the decision for a world leader to publish such a memoir is downright strange. Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, called the book’s release “highly unusual.” Its release was likely intended to allay some of the domestic pressures the Pakistani president faces, but as Mrs. Curtis notes, Gen. Musharraf may not have thought out the consequences of revealing so much information, particularly his conversations with other world leaders.

Also unsettling is Gen. Musharraf’s discussion of the Kargil War. Answering Mr. Sharif’s account of the 1999 conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir (after which Gen. Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in a military coup) was a primary goal of the book, but the repercussions show a real lack of foresight on the part of the Pakistani leader. His recounting of that conflict “raises serious questions about the use of violent militants to accomplish Pakistani goals,” according to Mrs. Curtis. The general’s biased retelling of the conflict, along with the acknowledgment of cooperation between jihadists and the Pakistani military, then under his command, and the failure to mention the Lahore peace talks has caused justifiable outrage in India. Either Gen. Musharraf is a truly maladroit diplomat, or he feels himself in a particularly precarious position at home.

Gen. Musharraf is under severe pressure from several groups in Pakistan, many with strong anti-American sentiments, over his close alliance with the United States and his support for the war on terror. He has been targeted in at least two assassination attempts. Some of Gen. Musharraf’s revelations — that the CIA paid the Pakistani government to hand over al Qaeda suspects and that the head of the ISI claimed that Richard Armitage threatened the use of force — can clearly be read as attempts to bolster domestic support, or at least to deflect some domestic opposition. That he would disclose this information, some of which sounds more like admissions than accusations, demonstrates the intensity of the opposition that Gen. Musharraf faces.

Pakistan without question is on the front line in the war on terror. Gen. Musharraf came to the White House looking for reassurance of the U.S. commitment to a long-term relationship that encompasses more than counterterrorism, and that is the message that President Bush delivered. The best way for Washington to bolster Gen. Musharraf’s position in Pakistan — tremendously important, as there are no guarantees that a subsequent leader would be as close an ally in the war on terror — is by reiterating U.S. interests in both a deeper and more expansive relationship and the long-term economic and political success of Pakistan.

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