- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was a vivid portrayal of a split personality. Paired, the two names have come to signify bipolar behavior. As president of Pakistan, to rule a Muslim country of 160 million that is 65 percent illiterate and overwhelmingly anti-American, firmly held contradictory views are the key to survival.

For President Pervez Musharraf, America is a force for good. But most Pakistanis now see the Bush administration as evil. As much as Mr. Musharraf wanted to help President Bush wipe out the Taliban after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he now concludes these young Muslim fanatics are the lesser of two evils next to the drug-fueled corruption of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s inept “democratic” government. After more than five years in office, and with billions in foreign assistance, Mr. Karzai is still struggling with 40 percent unemployment.

The U.S. intelligence community recently acquired a Pakistani insider’s look at what makes Mr. Musharraf tick these days. As much as he wanted U.S. victory in Iraq, he has long since concluded the United States has lost the hand to Iran. To recoup America’s loss before he leaves the White House in January 2009, Mr. Musharraf believes Mr. Bush will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities from air and sea. And this, in turn, will unite Sunnis and Shi’ites in Pakistan against all things American — and provoke a gigantic upheaval throughout the Middle East. With the whole world turning against Israel and the United States, he could not afford to continue his policy of “constructive ambiguity” toward the Bush administration.

As Mr. Musharraf and his Inter-Services Intelligence agency looked at Iran’s capture of 15 British sailors and marines, the perfidious Brits were fishing for a casus belli in waters they once controlled. They briefed some Pakistani journalists accordingly. Both the U.S. and British fleets were in the region in large numbers, and a well-known Russian military commentator said the United States was planning a pre-emptive attack for Easter weekend.

What ISI reports to him from the European capitals that sent troops to Afghanistan under the NATO flag, and from numerous ISI operatives in 34 Afghan provinces on the other side of the Hindu Kush mountain range, is that NATO is losing ground to a resurgent and rejuvenated Taliban. ISI’s conclusion: the NATO consensus on Afghanistan will not long survive a U.S. defeat in Iraq and/or hostilities against Iran.

The Taliban served Pakistan’s strategic interests prior to September 11. The student (Talib) movement, nurtured by ISI, conquered most of Afghanistan and seized Kabul in 1996. The mentally challenged, flat-Earth Taliban clerics that led the “madrassas” brainwashed students and imposed a draconian 14th-century theocracy, which became an embarrassment to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the only countries that extended recognition. But the Taliban gave Pakistan what passed for strategic security on its western front vis-a-vis an insecure border with India to the east.

Mr. Musharraf’s various agreements with tribal elders and chiefs in FATA territories since last September were trompe l’oeil, designed, not to hamper the Taliban guerrillas’ movement across the Afghan border as advertised, but to encourage the tribes to kick out “foreigners.” These were Tajiks and Uzbeks and some Arabs who had survived the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. They had settled in FATA and married local tribal girls. Recent fighting in North and South Waziristan killed more than 200 Central Asians from former Soviet Muslim republics.

The piece de resistance in Mr. Musharraf’s bipolar thinking was the green light he gave ISI to resume aiding a reconstituted Taliban in its campaign to oust President Karzai, a man he despises, a sentiment wholeheartedly reciprocated by the Afghan leader. ISI never really stopped helping a student movement this intelligence agency created, denials notwithstanding.

Mr. Musharraf’s “bipolarity” was well concealed when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, accompanied by Deputy CIA Director Stephen Kappes, called on him last February. He could not share with them the emergence of a Pakistani Taliban in the heart of the nation’s capital.

Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) is already a state within a state that annexed an adjoining building that is part of the Education Ministry. The high-ranking Pakistani informant said 6,000 female Taliban and 7,000 males are now members of the Lal Masjid brigade that is camped in the Red Mosque and its annexes — all under the control of MMA, the coalition of six politico-religious parties, with security ensured by what was described as the “religious ISI.”

Cane-wielding, burka-clad female enforcers have taken to the streets of Islamabad to hustle anyone wearing a Western skirt. They burst into one TV studio to voice their demands about public morality, including the closure of houses of “ill-repute;” i.e., anywhere Pakistanis meet Western friends. They have abducted women believed to engage in “criminal activities” and shut down video and music stores. Creeping Talibanization is now a reality across the length and breadth of one of the world’s eight nuclear-weapons powers. Two of Pakistan’s four provinces are already under anti-U.S., pro-Taliban governments.

Mr. Musharraf has convinced himself that unless he could obtain another five years in power — he took over in a military coup in 1999 — Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would be at risk of falling under the control of Islamist extremists. When Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry declined Mr. Musharraf’s request for a “five-year validation extension,” the president fired him, which touched off nationwide protests by lawyers in the major cities and paralyzed the courts.

While the Bush administration now has the benefit of Mr. Musharraf’s private thinking, as well as some of his still secret decisions about the Taliban, it has to pretend nothing has changed. The United States must continue to deal with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and his foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri as if nothing has changed in the relationship. Outside the ISI, no one knows about Mr. Musharraf’s Jekyll-and-Hyde national security policy.

The MVP Pakistani who briefed the intelligence community in Washington in late March provided what might otherwise be actionable intelligence. But Mr. Bush is dealing with a Pakistani leader in deep denial about what he’s actually doing one day, and then explaining the next day to a visiting U.S. official a ukase against Islamist extremists that was never issued.

To understand Pakistan, the intelligence community needs “anticipatory intelligence,” not the actionable kind. Because when something is actionable in Pakistan, it’s usually too late.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for the Washington Times and for United Press International.

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