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April 24, 2008

News from Pakistan
Posted by Patrick Barry

A potentially big story coming out of Pakistan today is that Baitullah Mehsoud, Taliban commander and proclaimed by President Musharraf to have orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has offered a suspension of "provocative activities" to the newly elected coalition government in Islamabad.

The deal, reportedly connected to the release of aging Taliban supporter Sufi Mohammed, could be a big development - Baitullah Mehsoud is believed to command roughly 20,000 followers, and is one of the most prolific figures operating along the restive Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.  That the Pakistan government has negotiated a tentative cease-fire with him confirms that they will take a significantly different tact from the Musharraf government toward dealing with their militant problem.

Coming off the heels of the scathing GAO report released last week, which found that the United States not only lacked a coherent plan for aiding Pakistan's government to tackle this problem, but also that existing assistance was far too heavily weighted toward military activities, this news punctuates the need for a re-conceptualization of current US policy.  For years, we've deluded ourselves into thinking that Musharraf was our man in Pakistan, all while he was re-directing a $10.5 billion assistance budget into ineffectual projects meant more to hedge against India and Afghanistan than to deal with the problem of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This government has signaled that it is taking a new path, albeit one that is not without its risks and we would do well not to jump to condemn it - the status-quo certainly hasn't worked very well.


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Well, one element in the status quo was an agreement Musharraf made with the tribes in the Frontier area under which they undertook to do what this Mehsoud person is offering to do now. This agreement turned out to be a means for the Pakistani Taliban to relieve pressure on themselves by the Pakistani military while continuing to funnel men and munitions into their war on Afghanistan's civil society.

I'm all for keeping an open mind, but we should never forget the kind of people these are.

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You still no more about foreign affairs, foreign countries and foreign officials than Frum ever will

We always have time enough , if we will but use it aright.

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