Friday, May 08, 2009

Distortion On Pakistan

Sometimes Rush Limbaugh is just plain puzzling.

On Wednesday, Limbaugh offered up a soundbite from CNN's interview of American University Chair of Islamic Studies Akbar Ahmed in which he said

Remember that today for President Obama his greatest headache is not coming from Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans. It's really coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan. He staked his reputation and his foreign policy in that part of the world.

Somehow Rush distorted Ahmed's observation that the greatest threat to the United States now is Afghanistan/Pakistan into

So here you have the American University Chair of Islamic Studies, Akbar Ahmed, saying, "Limbaugh and the Republicans are not Obama's greatest headache. It's Afghanistan and Pakistan." Pakistan's falling apart. Pakistan's falling apart, and the Taliban is taking over. They did a stupid thing. They advocated a stupid thing. They gave the Taliban a province, at the urging of the Obama administration. They gave the Taliban a province in Pakistan.

The chairman of the Republican Party may have been referring to the move by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari described in The New York Times on 3/28 as

In a conciliatory gesture to the opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Mr. Zardari said that he would lift the executive rule he had imposed on Punjab Province, the most populous province in Pakistan and one where the opposition party holds the most seats in the legislature.

The article, however, gives no hint of support by the Obama Administration of Zardari's decision, which apparently intended to continue to deply remotely piloted aircraft, known as drones, armed with missiles against Al Qaeda in the tribal areas. And in a May 7 article in the conservative National Review Online, Alex Alexiev criticizes Washington's policy toward Pakistan beginning in the Clinton Administration, then continuing under President Bush and now under President Obama. He argues "Defense Secretary Robert Gates thinks that Islamabad’s capitulation to the Taliban in Swat — a deal conceived and executed by the military — is an acceptable compromise" (emphasis mine).

Perhaps this is what radio's most successful demagogue is referring to- a deal encouraged by the Pakistani military and executed by the Pakistani government with no encouragement by the Obama Administration.

Or perhaps Rush is confusing this with the Miramshah agreement worked out by the Pakistan government in September 2006 with North Wazirisan tribal leaders and members of the Pakistan in which

Islamabad withdrew troops, released 165 militants, agreed to economically compensate tribe members for their losses, and allowed them to continue carrying small weapons. In return, tribal leaders said they would stop the infiltration of militants across the Afghani border and prevent attacks on the military. However, in July 2007, militants renounced the deal and cross-border operations surged.

And when President Musharraf claimed "the deal is not at all with the Taliban. This deal is against the Taliban. This deal is with the tribal elders," President Bush responded "I believe him." As Mr. Bush did while his Administration doled out nearly $10 billion to the Pakistani President, who responded by trying to placate the Taliban, which was only strengthened and emboldened.

In contrast, President Obama on Wednesday met with Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington. There is a serious question whether Pakistan and Afghanistan will cooperate in the fight against the militants in the region, nor that Islamabad itself will fully commit its military in the fight against the Taliban. Still, as Howard Wolfson of CBS News wrote Friday

However you label the meetings this week - high level diplomatic consultations, strategy negotiations or old-fashioned head knocking - the administration has made a high profile roll of the dice to get Zardari and Karzai on board with a plan to do whatever it takes to get rid of those who threaten stability not only in their own backyards but beyond.

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