Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Islamabad

Peter Brookes says that "U.S. national security hinges more on our relationship with Islamabad than with just about any other nation today."

Pakistan may be the most important country Americans don't know is important. U.S. national security hinges more on our relationship with Islamabad than with just about any other nation today.

Overstatement? Consider this: Militant Pakistani affiliates of al Qaeda have tried to assassinate Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf twice in just the last month. A successful hit on Musharraf could reverse the significant progress made in the War on Terror, undermine nuclear nonproliferation and snuff out the nascent Indian-Pakistani peace initiative.

* War on Terror: Pakistan is a key frontline state in the international terrorist struggle. After 9/11, Musharraf did a one-eighty on the Taliban and let U.S. forces operate from Pakistani soil against the Taliban/al Qaeda axis in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. It arrested hundreds of al Qaeda, including vaunted ops boss Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But Pakistan is still awash in Taliban (and Taliban sympathizers) and al Qaeda (and al Qaeda wannabes.) In early October, Osama bin Laden's deputy thug, Ayman al Zawahiri, called for them to overthrow Musharraf for "betraying" Islam. Secular Pakistan is now on al Qaeda's official hit list.

Pakistan's Northwest Frontier province is the stomping grounds of public enemy numero uno, Osama bin Laden, and former Talibanista Mullah Omar. Musharraf has realized that Islamic extremists, including those in the military and the dreaded Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) organization, are the greatest threat to a stable, peaceful Pakistani future - not India. (Nothing like a couple of near-miss bomb explosions to clear the head . . . )

* Nuclear Nonproliferation: Pakistan is the only nuclear weapons state in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the father of the Pakistani bomb, A.Q. Khan, is also a sire of the Iranian, North Korean and Libyan nuclear-weapons programs. Moreover, Khan is rumored to have considered sharing nuclear weapons technology with Saudi Arabia, which is antsy about a nuclear Iran controlling the Persian Gulf.

Pakistan's proliferation transgressions have been aired publicly of late and Musharraf has opened an investigation into the technology transfers, vowing to stop the proliferation. (We'll see.) Meanwhile, al Qaeda and Pakistani Islamic radicals would love to get their slimy mitts on the Pakistani nuclear stockpile or enabling nuclear technology. Just think: al Qaeda with the bomb . . .

There's more, read the whole thing if so inclined. Pakistan is definitely the most unstable of any of the nuclear countries, but Iran could give them a run for their money.


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