Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pakistan’s Taliban Deal Harms Its Soft Power


This is another of those moments when it’s easy to lose your composure.

Pakistan has signed a deal with pro-Taliban militants to withdraw its forces from North Waziristan, a region bordering Afghanistan notorious for harboring such Taliban “guests.” In exchange, the militants promise not to harbor foreign militants, although those still there—UBL, please call your answering service—reportedly may stay.

(The Christian Science Monitor’s analysis of the deal includes links to lots of relevant stories in other publications.)

Pakistan’s soft power in the West was already near zero. Although the UK government was quick to credit the Musharraf regime with helping to break the latest plot to blow up aircraft as a ticket to Paradise, the British suspects are, by and large, the kids of Pakistani immigrants. Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency is thought to work hand in glove with Taliban remnants throughout northern Pakistan. And Pakistan is noted for absurd chest-thumping about its meager atomic capability—although it’s conspicuously quiet about having sold nuclear and missile technologies to other, non-nuclear countries.

To paraphrase what policymakers used to say about the U.S. defending apartheid and various dictators, Yes, the dictator is an asshole—but at least he’s our asshole. Musharraf has been the only guy the U.S. can turn to in a region filled with ex-Soviet personality cults and unfriendly Shi’a regimes. I wouldn’t look for a very robust condemnation of the truce from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.—but I wouldn’t look for Musharraf to take any quiet Rose Garden walks with the President before November, either.

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