Missed this last week – worth a watch if you’re monitoring the mess that is Af-Pak.
(Source: NBC’s Meet the Press)
MR. DAVID GREGORY (HOST): … But first, the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I sat down with both leaders earlier this week after their White House meetings. Pakistan’s President Zardari, in office for the last eight months, is the widower of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. I began by asking about the Taliban and whether he agrees with the Obama administration that the group represents an existential threat to his country.
MR. ASIF ALI ZARDARI: No, I consider the philosophy of Taliban as threat to the world, not just to Pakistan and your country, but I feel it’s a larger threat.
I’m reading David Sanger’s book, The Inheritance. It’s a great read that outlines some of the thorniest foreign policy issues facing the new Obama Administration. It tracks the Bush Administration’s policies or policy vacuums regarding places like North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sanger discusses the approximately $10 billion in funds that the U.S. has funneled into Pakistan since 9/11 and the high probability that some of it has probably been used against us, while still more of it has been simply wasted through corruption or in building up Pakistan’s Indian-facing military forces. Over and over during the Bush years, Presidents Pervez Musharaf and Bush publicly proclaimed their mutual admiration. On Bush’s end it was wishful thinking – we need the Pakistanis to help fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda. As for Mr. Musharaf it was all about making and closing every sale, that is, ensuring the steady flow of greenbacks to prop up his ailing government and economy.
Sanger also recounts a steady procession of U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials streaming in and out of Islamabad, sometimes there to deliver strong messages akin to, “We know you can do better with the nutjobs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas” (also known as the “in” destination for Taliban and terrorists). Musharaf or his generals or ISI spooks would shrug and smile. Sometimes there would be genuine surprise at some intel being brought to them by their American Sugar Daddies. Shortly thereafter there might be a few radical teenagers plucked from a Madrassa and held for a time.
On Friday, David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post from Islamabad chronicling yet another U.S. administration and yet still another military/diplomatic delegation who are now speaking to Musharaf’s successor, Asif Ali Zardari. From Ignatius’ column, it sounds like things haven’t changed much in Pakistan:
Later that day, Zardari met us at his office overlooking the city. He was convincing when he discussed the legacy of his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in December 2007 by what he called the “cancer” of Muslim terrorism. But on some major security and intelligence issues, he claimed no knowledge or sought to shift blame to others, and the overall impression was of an accidental president who still has an uncertain grasp on power.
Sanger’s tale of Bush and Musharaf is still fresh in my mind. It sounds like the faces have changed on both sides of this relationship but the reality hasn’t.