Pakistan on the Brink?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that militant Taliban fighters moving out of the Swat Valley to within 60 miles of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad pose “a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”


Clinton told the House foreign affairs committee, “I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists.”


Her concern? The nation of Pakistan has nuclear weapons which would fall into the hands of terrorists if the extremists take over.


Could this be the “test” the vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said that Barack Obama would encounter in his first 6 months in office?


Al Qaeda militants long have used rugged northwestern Pakistan as a base, particularly since they were driven from Afghanistan by US forces in 2001. Osama bin Laden is said to be hiding there.


Under strongman president Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008, Pakistan had been a close American ally in the war against terrorism, and had kept the militants in check. But Musharraf resigned under pressure in August 2008. The new leader, Asif Ali Zardari, is the widower of Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in an assassination in December 2007.


The Bhutto family has a long history in Pakistan politics. Benazir Bhutto herself was sworn in as prime minister in 1988 but was removed from office 20 months later for alleged corruption. In 1993 she was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on corruption charges. She went into exile in Dubai in 1998 then returned to Pakistan to run for the presidency in 2007. He father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was a civilian prime minister from 1972 to 1977 and was hanged in 1979.


Growing concern over Pakistan is coming in the wake of the Zardari government agreeing to allow radical Islamic sharia law in the Swat Valley in a deal with Taliban militants. This is the “abdicating” that Clinton was referring to. And now militants seem prepared to move beyond Swat.


Supporters said that the sharia deal would allow the Pakistani government to slowly reassert control in Swat by making concessions to the militants. And while there has been a temporary cessation of radical activities, some see the acquiescence as simple weakness that will embolden the militants in the long run.


The agreement covers Swat and other districts in the Malakand Division, an area near the Afghan border and the tribal areas where al Qaeda and Taliban militants thrive.


Teresita Schaffer, a former U.S. diplomat who served in Pakistan, said that many foreign policy experts share Clinton‘s dire assessment. “There is deep concern in the US government, and elsewhere in this country, about the implications of the deal in Swat. It represents a cession of state authority to people who have been slitting the throats of policemen in the public square,” she said.


Meanwhile militants have said that bin Laden and others aiming to oust the US from Afghanistan would be welcome and protected in Swat.


Is this Obama’s test?


After only 3 months in office, Obama has shown a pattern of minimizing terrorism, even refusing to call it a “war on terror” but rather “overseas contingency operations.” At a time when the president is authorizing his attorney general to potentially go ahead with prosecutions of Bush administration officials over basically one relatively benign interrogation tactic – waterboarding – that provided vital information on other pending terrorist attacks, there seems to be little will in the new administration for any tough action.


What will happen in Pakistan? Will Zardari act forcefully against the extremists or cower in fear? Will Obama allow any major US action? Will Zardari be ousted in a military takeover enacted in order to prevent the militants from moving on Islamabad?


The last option is most likely of the three if the situation deteriorates. Because Pakistan has been bubbling for many years. A military takeover – Musharraf is said to be waiting in the wings – might be the only way to stop Pakistan from falling into the hands of the extremists. And then we might expect Obama to condemn it.


Why? First, consider his record. Second, Benazir Bhutto and Barack Obama had one thing in common – they both went to Harvard, and Zardari, being the widower, certainly is of the same mindset. So along with the Clintons, who both went to Yale, and other intellectual appeasers who are afraid to confront terrorism and who drive people like Musharraf from office, we can see an ominous pattern developing.


On February 26, 1993, with Bill Clinton in office less than one month, terrorists drove a truck packed with explosives into the parking garage underneath the World Trade Center North Tower in New York City. The bomb detonated, killing 15 and injuring more than 1,000 but the plan to weaken the tower’s understructure and bring down the building failed.


The Clinton administration refused to prosecute the bombers as terrorists but only as criminals. Evidence presented in the open-trial format of such a criminal proceeding leaked valuable intel to terrorists worldwide. And while the 2/26 terrorists today languish in jail, Clinton never pursued the 9/11 hijackers as they entered the US in the late 1990s, moved freely about the country, obtained drivers’ licenses, took flying lessons, communicated through the internet, received funding from overseas and took reconnaissance flights on commercial airlines. Handing the Bush administration an empty briefing book on terrorist activities, 9/11 was the result.


In recent comments before a committee hearing, Democrat US senator Dianne Feinstein of California blurted out that American drone aircraft that are surveilling and attacking Pakistani militants are operating out of airfields inside Pakistan, and not from US bases in Afghanistan. This is the same Feinstein who in 1985, as mayor of San Francisco, blurted out secret police information on the Night Stalker murder, tipping off the killer and setting the case way back. Police were outraged.


The drone revelation is the type of information that pours gasoline on the Islamic fire smoldering inside Pakistan. And that a Democrat in the United States Senate tipped off the terrorists is another indicator of how little we can trust the indecisive and appeasing Democrat party to protect us.


Keep an eye on Pakistan. It could soon become the most important nation in the world to the United States… and to all mankind.   


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