National Security Network

Bush’s Musharraf Policy Comes to a Failed Conclusion

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Report 18 August 2008

Pakistan Pakistan al qaeda bush kashmir Musharraf Pakistan Taliban

In another stinging blow to the Bush administration, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned from office today. It has been a disastrous ten days for the Bush administration, which has seen the complete collapse of its Russia policy and now the failed end of its Pakistan policy. In both cases, the Bush administration adopted a personality-driven approach that focused on a single individual – President Putin in Russia and President Musharraf in Pakistan. This superficial approach has failed to produce tangible results and has left the United States with few options and little leverage in its dealings with both Russia and Pakistan. Today, both Al Qaeda and the Taliban have grown stronger and more dangerous in Pakistan’s lawless northwest border region and continue to represent the gravest threat to the United States. Additionally, the Bush administration’s firm backing of Musharraf, even when it became clear that the Pakistani people sought free and fair elections, has pushed Pakistani opinion of the United States to new lows. We must change course and adopt a comprehensive approach toward Pakistan that seeks to engage the Pakistani people and strengthen its fledgling democratic institutions.

For years, the Bush Administration had a Musharraf policy, not a Pakistan policy.  Rather than adopt a comprehensive strategy for the region, the Bush Administration based its policy entirely around an unelected military leader.  President Bush long expressed complete confidence in the Pakistani leader, saying that “when [Musharraf] looks me in the eye and says there won’t be a Taliban and won't be Al Qaeda, I believe him,” but in reality, “the Pakistani general proved to be a tough, frustrating customer for the United States.”  The Administration’s reliance on Musharraf was so great, that the U.S. never fully developed a comprehensive plan for rooting out terrorism and stabilizing Pakistan’s most volatile and threatening region. [Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007. NY Times, 8/18/08.  GAO, 4/17/08]

Despite billions in foreign assistance, the extremist threat has grown worse under President Musharraf.  Since the attacks on 9/11, the U.S. has given more than $10 billion in assistance to help President Musharraf wage Pakistan’s campaign against terrorism. Of that money, $5.5 billion was specifically directed to counterinsurgency efforts. However, Congressional auditors say Pakistan spent little to address the growing insurgent safe-havens in its autonomous tribal belt and “Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency never severed ties with the Taliban.”[NSN, 7/24/08. GAO, 4/17/08. NY Times, 8/18/08]

Conditions are deteriorating, but the U.S. has limited options in Pakistan.  Pakistan’s woes are part of a broader regional crisis, which poses a grave threat to the U.S.  Extremists operating in the region have strengthened their hand and “Al Qaeda is more capable of attacking inside the United States than it was last year.”  Additionally, instability emanating from Pakistan’s borders – not just along the restive Afghanistan border, but also in Kashmir – is increasing.  Worst of all, Pakistani approval for the U.S. is abysmally low; and the view that Pakistan should “not be saddled with America’s mistakes, especially if a solution involved breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty,” is widely held by members of the new coalition government. [NY Times, 8/12/08. Washington Post, 8/17/08. NY Times, 8/18/08. Pew Global Attitudes, 12/28/07. NY Times, 5/16/08]
 

Quick Hits

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As the Russia-Georgia conflict continues to swirl, papers examine the U.S. pre-war role, political responses to the war, and the future of Russian relations with the west, particularly with Europe.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy has an op-ed in the Washington Post on the French role.

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