Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, July 09, 2004

Bin Laden the Republican's trump card?
The New Republic reports that various high level US Administration officials have made their way to Pakistan in the last few weeks to continue to work the pressure vice on Musharraf's government to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar. No problems there, each of those individuals need desperately to be brought to justice.

But nothing escapes political reality.

The New Republic reports that "an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TNR that the Pakistanis 'have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [High Value Targets] before the election is an absolute must.' What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: 'The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington.' Says McCormack: 'I'm aware of no such comment.' But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that 'it would be best if the arrest or killing of any HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July'--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

With the entrenched tribal clans along the Pakistani border active but divided at present, Musharraf's big concern is that any prolonged military activity in the region, especially alongside US Military, will unite the clans in a civil war against the Pakistani forces. But, again according to the New Republic, his results in the capture or death of these HVTs have consequences that reach into their relations with India. Musharraf has been trying to secure an order of F-16's that would tip the balance in the cold war with India, whilst Powell has been completely non-committal, patently holding out for Pakistani results.

With that deadline only weeks away, it will be interesting to see if those dates hold any significance.