Fans of the Terror War will be sad to note that US efforts in Central Asia have suffered yet another setback. Pakistan’s DAWN reports that President Musharraf traveled this week to Moscow to curry the favor of President Putin in what Pakistani government officials termed a “new stage” of the countries’ diplomatic relations. Musharraf’s intentions are obvious: to indicate his government’s willingness to deal with Moscow at least as favorably as current client state India has historically. What may be less obvious to some is what the strengthening of ties between the two countries says about US efforts in the Afghan conflict.
One of the more downplayed aspects of cooperation between the US and Russian governments is what the Russians actually get out of it. Putin must have gotten some payoff to stand in a Texas auditorium in front of children and news cameras and listen to the Cheerleader-In-Chief babble about seeing into his soul over malteds at Friendly’s. Say what you will about Vladimir Putin, but at least he doesn’t string together cliches jacked from Bill Kristol’s dream journal and call them a State of the Union address.
But I digress. The Russians have a foothold in Afghanistan and surrounding areas so profound that the mainstream media can’t mention it, lest it shatter the illusion of unimpeachable US military supremacy. Pakistan sees that, and is forced to take note, and deal with a country that maintains military and strategic resources that far exceed its own. Furthermore, Pakistan sees that the US government, yet again, has made a bunch of promises on which it has no intention of delivering. All this adds up to a client state making every reasonable attempt to go into business for itself, because the current US war is the worst of both worlds for the beleaguered people of Pakistan: armed conflict & no payoff. Musharraf realizes that to such a degree that he can’t decide whether Osama is alive or dead; whatever his answer, Pakistan is shafted.
Pakistani troubles are only amplified by the periodic threats made by the Indian government, which the US believes merits Most Favored Nation status from the Musharraf regime. It is well-known to all parties that India would win a nuclear pissing match between the two rival regimes. It is likewise well-known that the US, even if willing to make good on its promises in the manner it has for Turkey and Israel, likely couldn’t; besides the looming breach of the US Treasury’s “debt ceiling”, the failure to “stabilize” Afghanistan means that a lot of money is being spent on a war of attrition against a resurgent enemy.
And a surprisingly resourceful one, given how recent US body counts exceed those of months past. Unremarked upon in the US corporate media is from where the latest supplies for Al Qaeda are coming. Aren’t our boys over there still “smoking them out”? If that’s the case, then it would be reasonable to expect that there might be some clues about which regional power supplies the weapons used for an offensive apparently more successful than any before it in the Afghan War.
There will be plenty of time to speculate about who provides the curiously resurgent Al Qaeda’s resources. That said, there will be less time to discuss President Musharraf in the present tense, if his government’s overtures to Moscow get out of hand. Is it a coincidence that the strengthening of Pakistain ties with Russia happened around the time Powell alleged that Iraq’s Islamabad embassy was a “liaison for Al Qaeda” [2/6/03; DAWN]?
If Pakistan begins to move too independently, acting preemptively without considering the strategic interest of the US as more important than its own, expect Pakistan to be declared a hotbed of Al Qaeda activity, and for the expendable Musharraf to be ousted in favor of a newly-minted moderate military dictator. The business of statesmanship; governments sending their poor and their damned to obliterate each other on battlefields. And we wonder why people rise up in anger, deciding the Koran has more to offer them than the WTO.
ANTHONY GANCARSKI, author of 2001’s UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS, accepts email at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.