Osama and Iraq

WASHINGTON — A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan’s tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network’s leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda’s efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan’s withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.

“Iraq is a big moneymaker for them,” said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

LA Times? Liberal media lies!

They continue to state (loudly, repeatedly, and publically) that they are a staunch ally of the United States and with steely resolve and unstinting effort intend to continue to root out terrorists operating in their country. Of course, our willingness to feed them several billion in military logistical support and economic aid packages might have something to do that.

At the same time, they’ve stopped any real attempt to police their northwestern regions like Waziristan, so that de facto control rests with a mix of tribal groups, many of them aligned with the Taliban and in some cases even with Al-Qaeda. Despite the language in the Waziristan accord about not allowing “Foreigners” to operate out of the region there’s been no attempt to actually enforce that provision from either the de facto government or the Pakistani military. I suppose you could take some vicarious satisfaction in the fact there’s been some scattered fighting between local tribesman and the IMU, but that’s no substitute for a concerted effort to root out terrorists operating out of the region.

Personally, I’d like to see Musharaff held to account. No reason to continue to give Pakistan economic assistance when they’re not holding up their end of the bargain.

Well, other than him being a secular leader in a religious country with nuclear weapons.

Just look at what happened the last time we took out a secular leader in a religious country.

Is Brian’s point “oo look, there were baddies there all along?!”, if so, it’s a silly point, so I don’t expect that’s what he’s on about. I’m guessing it’s a "jeez the place really is more of a shithole now than it was a few year ago, which is entirely true.

Not a good enough reason. That’s rather like saying to your employer, after not showing up for work for a couple weeks, that he should pay you anyway because you’re a nicer person to have as an employee than the college dropout with the hygiene problem he’d have to hire to replace you.

Wow. That has to be the most bone-headed analogy ever.

To preface: I don’t like Musharraf. At all. But he is, at this point, the lesser of the evils.

Pakistani democracy has largely been a failure, with significant extremism, corruption, and incompetence being the norm. Musharraf isn’t a lot better, but he’s better.

If Musharraf went down today, the most likely outcome is a move towards a Sunni Islamic state. I don’t think it’d be as nuts as Iran, but it’d likely be pretty close. It would also likely be much more bellicose towards both India and Iran than the Musharraf government has been.

While Musharraf is far from effective at meeting US foreign policy goals, he is something of a bulwark against even worse outcomes. Cutting his legs out from under him would be very much against US foreign policy interests.

I think that Musharraf is in a very difficult position. I believe there have been democratic reforms, or at least more than you will see in your garden variety dictatorship.

But I think that Musharraf, more than most, really has to ride the tiger. If he presses for real democratic reforms too fast, he’s basically a dead man at the hands of the religious fundamentalists who will take over once Musharraf loosens his grip on power.

If he caters too much to the religious fundamentalists, he loses those gains he has made with India and the U.S.

Hows that any different than here?

It’s a difference of degree, which is a very important difference nonetheless.

Ask yourself, would you rather live in the US, or Pakistan?

From what I’ve read, even despite the Bush debacle the US is better off than Pakistan (and I firmly believe Bush is the worst US president to date). It takes a pretty corrupt democracy to get many on the left to agree that, actually, a dictator taking power was an improvement.

Musharraf has a pretty difficult job cut out for him; I’m rather surprised he’s made it this far being as (relatively) close to the US as he has.

I agree that the government of Pakistan is not the worst it could be. But you’re making the assumption that the ONLY thing sustaining the current Pakistani government and holding off Islamic radicals is US Aid, and that’s simply not true. Furthermore, if Musharraf is going to live up to another agreement he’s made he’s going to have to hold elections this year, and once again if he doesn’t that’s another reason for the US not to give him money he hasn’t earned.

As much as it might gall me to stick to my principles on the issues of open elections, I respect the right of people to select their own government. That said, if Pakistan WERE to end up with a militant theocratic government from either a revolution or the theoretical elections there’s no reason for us to play ball with them any more than we have with the terrorists currently “running” (and I use the term very loosely) Gaza and the West Bank.

This is a simple matter of “no play, no pay”, because at this point Musharraf is quite simply not honoring his pledges to us, and that is unacceptable.

Actually, we are playing ball with Fatah, the secular Palestinian political party which dominates the West Bank, to the extent of (with Israeli cooperation) training a Palestinian “security” force under an American officer. We’re putting our thumb on the scale of the infighting between them and Hamas.

And Fatah is not the majority government, which is the point I was making before. With the palestinians we’re playing ball with the opposition party, not the government itself. Abbas may be president, but he’s not in control of his own government (as the current infighting demonstrates pretty clearly).

And frankly I still object to the cooperation we’ve given Fatah because they’re barely better than Hamas when it comes to the important issues of recognizing Israel and being willing to renounce violence AND then to follow through with that by enforcing that on their militant members.

Yup. My point exactly. Well played.

The difference with Pakistan is that they have nukes.

I think an Islamic Pakistan is more likely to let a nuke slip to a terrorist than a nuclear Iran. In the relative chaos of governmental transition, things can get lost. I worry about what India would do, as well. Many millions of people could die in the aftermath of an Islamic revolution in Pakistan. It’s probably not likely, but it’s a bit scary anyway.

Dear Linnaeus,

You are upset with the less than stellar results fighting Al Qaeda that flowed naturally from our misguided war in Iraq, a George Bush decision, and you want to blame the Prime Minister of Pakistan?

Most of the time, blame is something that can be spread like butter from an everflowing tub, there is always enough to go around and you can lay it on as thick as you want. Not this time, Chachi. Blaming Pervez is like blaming a bad analogy for the situation in Iraq.

I will not go into depth on the strategic importance of retaining Pakistan as an ally, suffice it to say you should take a look on a map and notice that it borders Iran, Afganistan, India and China.

Pakistan requires our support so that the more relaxed and advanced elements of the country have time to build infrastructure and support so as to modernize the country and give the people a greater stake in day to day progress than can be possibly won in a social upset or unrest situation. You forget that Pakistan is a nation where the founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a well spoken atheist. If you insist on destablizing Pakistan, and with it, the entire Indian subcontinent, by allowing more hawkish and reactionary worst case scenario proponents to carry the day, you will regret your decision. Pervez Musharraf has a country to run peacefully and a nation to build for the benefit of the Pakistani people. He is willing to work with the United States as much as he can, but to expect him to sacrifice his country and his leadership of that country to dig the United States out of a hole that the United States put itself into is simply foolish.

You are arguing from an ideological position and that is simply indefensible. You should argue from pragmatic positions dictated by the current situation using the best information you have at your disposal, not from hollow jingoism and hyperbole.

No play no pay is a poor offering as well. This modified gunboat diplomacy encourages rivalry and shopping towards alternate power structures. We want Pakistan firmly entrenched in the current and dominant global order. There is no benefit to us to work to remove him from the current order, and there is a significant risk attached to the termination of aid and support to Pakistan. Supporting the growth of and fostering relationships with nations like the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan, ushering them up the chain of command on the world stage discourages attempts to upset the current power structure.

No, I want to blame the Prime Minister of Pakistan for not pursuing the fighting with the radical elements along his Northwestern frontier and instead making it effectively a “no go” area for his troops, and for not cooperating withe the idea of US operations in the region.

You’ve also made the mistake of assuming that I’ve advocated removing Musharraf from power. I have not and am not. I AM saying that we should put political and economic pressure on him to either restart military operations in that region on his own or better yet to allow US operations a freer hand in Pakistan as long as they are limited to the trouble spots in the Northwest.

You consider allowing a chunk of your country to declare de facto self-rule and set itself up as a haven for terrorist organizations to operate from in attacks against both the new regime in Afghanistan and possibly attacks against Europe and the United States to be a “peaceful” way of running a country?

Pakistan has a militant element in its population, but not so much that they’re just waiting to topple Musharraf from power if he dares to oppose the terrorist groups setting up camp in the rural communities of northwestern Pakistan. In fact, terrorism as a “legitimate” tactic is LESS accepted in Pakistan than in many other predominantly Muslim countries. I’m not expecting Musharraf to sacrifice his government. I’m expecting him to keep his word and stick to an agreement that he made.

Musharraf has a semi-hostile nuclear nation on one border, and one that has and can defeat his own forces, as he knows from personal experience. He has Waristan, an area so wild and ungovernable that it would be possible for someone to hide there even if the very best of reconnaisance technology in the world is focused on it for half a dozen years acting as a totally porus border with an equally uncontrollable area in Afghanistan, and Balochistan is a tribal tinderbox ready to go off too. He has massive problems with wahabists and other extremists throughout his population, as well as having to to appease the US and his own intellectual classes. He has to keep his armed forces happy. He is under constant threat of assassination.

I think he should award himself another medal rather than be censured, the very fact Pakistan is not “back in the Stone Age”, a Wahabist regime or a pile of radioactive ash is reason enough.