|US troops may enter Pakistan
22 Sep, 2006
WASHINGTON: Islamabad’s delicate ties with the United States is threatening to come apart at the seams after it was revealed Thursday that the Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan into the ''stone age'' if it did not cooperate in the war on terror after 9/11.
Disclosure of this startling fact came from none other than Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf who told CBS 60 Minutes in an interview that the threat by the then US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was relayed to him by his intelligence chief.
''The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age’,'' Musharraf told CBS’ Steve Kroft in an interview that is scheduled to be telecast Sunday evening on the widely watched 60 Minutes program. Asked if he didn’t think the threat was insulting, Musharraf tells Kroft: ''I think it was a very rude remark.''
But, the Pakistani strongman tells Kroft, he reacted to it in a responsible way. ''One has to think and take actions in the interests of the nation, and that's what I did,'' he says, explaining what many Pakistani commentators have since said was an abject capitulation to the US.
Musharraf’s candid confession was released by CBS just hours before he was due to meet President Bush at the White House on Friday morning.
The two have already disagreed in public over the hunt for Osama bin Laden with Bush saying he would send US troops into Pakistan if intelligence indicated the fugitive was there and Musharraf rejecting the idea and retorting Pakistan preferred to do the job itself.
The latest public exposition over the post-9/11 threat can only complicate a relationship that many analysts have seen as tactical at best, and dodgy, cynical and mistrustful at worst.
Although it is known that the Bush administration broadly leaned on Pakistan with a ''you are either for us or against us'' argument, this is the first time anyone has disclosed how bluntly Washington threatened Pakistan, which sponsored the Taliban and was the stomping ground for many well-known terrorists, including some 9/11 hijackers According to Washington insiders, the task of bringing Pakistan on board the anti-terror alliance was left to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who delegated the job to his deputy Richard Armitage, who had long-standing ties with the Pakistani military and intelligence going back to the covert CIA-ISI war in Afghanistan.
All it needed in the hours after 9/11 was one phone call from Armitage -- and a muscular one it now turns out -- for Pakistan to buckle under. The subsequent diplomatic triumph was relayed with great relish by Powell to Bush and other principles gathered at a White House meeting, according to published accounts.
CBS said Armitage disputed the language attributed to him but doesn't deny that the message was strong. Armitage is currently in the doghouse for leaking the name of a CIA agent to the media in a flap about the US war on Iraq.
Armitage’s threat also recalls a similar warning by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who told Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s that the US would make a ''horrible example'' of Pakistan if insisted on acquiring nuclear weapons. That threat came to nought.
Whatever the precise language Armitage used, many Pakistani commentators have subsequently described the episode as a humiliating capitulation, although Islamabad was hardly in a position to resist Washington given its patronage of the Taliban, al Qaeda and a variety of other terrorist elements. To top it, Pakistan was also exposed subsequently as a nuclear proliferator, a subject on which CBS extracts a qualified mea culpa from Musharraf.
According to Musharraf, Pakistan was embarrassed with disclosures about A.Q.Khan’s nuclear proliferation by CIA Director George Tenet in New York in 2003.
''(Tenet) took his briefcase out, passed me some papers. It was a centrifuge design with all its numbers and signatures of Pakistan. It was the most embarrassing moment,'' Musharraf reveals. He learned then, he says, that not only were blueprints being given to Iran and North Korea, but the centrifuges themselves — the crucial technology needed to enrich uranium to weapons grade — were being passed to them.
''(Khan) gave them centrifuge designs. He gave them centrifuge parts. He gave them centrifuges.''
Musharraf however denies that anyone in the government or the military knew of these leaks, despite what CBS says is the fact that the military was guarding Khan's nuclear facilities and the total amount of secret material sent from the lab was more than 18 tons.
''First of all these centrifuges, or their parts, these are not huge elements. They can be put in your car and moved,'' Musharraf says. ''(The shipments) were not done once...They must have been transported many times.''
WASHINGTON: President George Bush has dropped a bombshell ahead of his Friday meeting at the White House with Gen. Pervez Musharraf by declaring that US troops would not hesitate to enter Pakistan in their hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Asked on CNN if he would order military action inside Pakistan if intelligence indicated bin Laden and other top terrorists were hiding there, Bush asserted: "Absolutely...absolutely."
"We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice," Bush said.
The US President's assertion is a sharp departure from his remarks only last week that Pakistan is a "sovereign nation" and American troops could not enter the country without invitation.
But in the days since those remarks, the US media and strategic community has relentlessly questioned Pakistan's bonafides in the war on terrorism, topped by critical remarks by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
Gen. Musharraf and Afghanistan's elected President Hamid Karzai clashed bitterly at the United Nations this week with each leader asking the other to "do more" to contain the resurgence of Taliban.
On Wednesday, Karzai virtually urged US to invade and punish Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism, saying the war on terrorism could not be won without hitting the root source of the violence, which he clearly indicated was Pakistan.
"We must destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond Afghanistan, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance, arm and deploy terrorists," Karzai told the UN General Assembly without naming Pakistan, but clearly implicating his neighbour.
Following the Bush-Musharraf meeting on September 22, Karzai is to meet the US President separately on September 24, before a trilateral meeting next week with Bush and Musharraf on September 27.
Bush's remarks on CNN came as a virtual public rebuke to Musharraf, who only hours before had insisted to the media in New York that Pakistan will not allow foreign troops on it territory and would conduct the hunt for bin Laden itself. But US analysts have questioned Pakistan's commitment in this regard. The considered opinion in the intelligence community is that bin Laden is Pakistan's insurance for continued US aid and pandering, and Islamabad has no compelling reason to capture or kill him.
Bush though frequently chooses to give Musharraf the benefit of doubt in public. The CNN interview was no exception - even amid the latest gauntlet he threw about possible incursions into Pakistan.
"I view President Musharraf as somebody who would like to bring al-Qaida to justice," Bush told CNN 's Wolf Blitzer. "There's no question there is a kind of a hostile territory in the remote regions of Pakistan that makes it easier for somebody to hide."
It is possible that Bush might have meant a short surgical strike when he spoke of a US hunt for bin Laden in Pakistan while previously rejecting the idea of stationing troops on a longer term basis in the country.
Despite Pakistan's protestations to the contrary, the US military has frequently crossed the border into Pakistan from Afghanistan in hot pursuit of terrorists.
However, Bush's public disclosure of a no-holds-barred US policy has put Musharraf in a spot given his public insistence that Pakistan has the sovereign right to decline foreign intervention in the hunt for bin Laden and do the job on its own.
For that slight alone, Bush is expected to praise the Pakistani dictator even more during his Friday call at the White House despite urging from many analysts that he has to hold the general's feet to the fire.
"America's staunchest ally presides over the breeding grounds of the very people who seek to kill as many Americans as they can, while US taxpayers foot the bill," Pakistani-American analyst Manzoor Ijaz wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday in an op-ed piece titled "Musharrafstan," pointing out that the general was in cahoots with radicals despite his protestations to enlightened moderation.
Pakistan, he said, needed innovative solutions to move away from its radical path, and Musharraf was not the man to deliver them.
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