Long a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism, Pakistan is now a nuclear state spiraling out of control, according to journalist and foreign affairs expert Arnaud De Borchgrave.
De Borchgrave, who runs the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project, told C-Span Tuesday that the Taliban and al-Qaida are in control of tribal areas along the Afghan border.
Not even a controversial power-sharing proposal between President General Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is likely to quell the dangerous situation, De Borchgrave adds.
“It is a very explosive situation,” he says of Pakistan’s tribal regions. “The Taliban controls the whole area. That is very dangerous for our future engagement in Afghanistan. As long as Taliban and al Qaida control those tribal areas on the border, there is no way we can possibly succeed” in Afghanistan.
In a commentary in Monday’s Washington Times, De Borchgrave summed up the situation in Pakistan, saying “One of the world's eight nuclear powers, Pakistan is now a failing state out of control where Taliban, al-Qaida and their supporters have secured their privileged sanctuaries in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, reoccupied the Red Mosque in the center of Islamabad, and launched suicide bombers in widely scattered parts of this Muslim country of 160 million.
“More than any other country in the world, Pakistan is the breeding ground of Islamic terrorism. Yet it enjoys the status of ‘major non-NATO ally’ of the U.S.,” De Borchgrave adds
As for what the U.S role in the ongoing Pakistani crisis should be, De Borchgrave tells C-Span, “we have to try to do something about what is not happening in the federally administered tribal areas, specifically north and south Waziristan on the Afghan border, The army has in effect collapsed there. Taliban and al Qaeda have now secured north and south Waziristan. Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been captured.”
“You have two of the four provinces in Pakistan that are actually governed by people who are pro-al Qaida, pro-Taliban,” says De Borchgrave. “The chief minster of the northwest frontier province told me that he was proud of his relationship with [fugitive Taliban ruler] Mullah Omar and that he had a great deal of admiration for Osama bin Laden.
“Through those areas you can see buses with Osama bin Laden posters on the back,” he says. “When you look at polls of Pakistanis, you see that Osama bin Laden scores almost 50 percent while U.S. President George W. Bush polls in the low teens and President Musharraf in single digits.
De Borchgrave also revealed contents of an e-mail he received from former Benazir Bhutto.
"Our rapprochement talks with Musharraf have foundered in the quicksand of his failing promises,” Bhutto wrote. “There is no move toward democracy. It's either back to dictatorship (1999) or back to a rigged election (2002). Or Musharraf is replaced with a pliant interim government for two years run from behind the scenes by the same military hardliners.
“They claim in 2 years they can push NATO out of Afghanistan and replace President (Hamid) Karzai with one of their own betting that the U.S. Will be caught up in presidential elections for one year and it will take another year for the new administration to settle in,” Bhutto's e-mail added, “The fact that militants hold open meetings without fear of retaliation proves the Musharraf regime is totally inept, unwilling or colluding in their expansion.”
“The situation is grim, the risks are high, but I have faith in the people to turn around the problem if we can get a real election,” Bhuttos wrote.
In his Washington Times column, De Borchgrave summed up the grim situation:
“With Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries now secure in the foothills of the Hindu Kush, the NATO campaign to whittle down Taliban's guerrilla units in Afghanistan could last for years. But those doing the fighting … [are] beginning to lose political and public opinion support at home. Logistics were costly with no end in sight.
“What they originally thought might be a two- to three-year peacekeeping commitment could now take five to 10 more years.”
“Gen. Sir David Richards, who commanded the Afghan mission until last February, said, ‘There are too few troops to conduct the operation in a manner that meets the basic rules of a counterinsurgency campaign’ and that ‘we need a doubling of forces -- and probably a lot more than that -- if we are to achieve minimum goals.’
“That would double the 41,000-strong NATO force to more than 80,000. The future of NATO hangs in the balance,” De Borchgrave wrote.
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