Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things Go a Little More Sideways in Pakistan

First, we have Bhutto cozying up to Islamist parties, in the form of Nawaz Sharif:

From inside the house [Bhutto] moved to forge a coalition of opposition parties in an apparent bid to isolate Musharraf ahead of the elections.

She said she was ready for an alliance with another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, spoke with former cricket star Imran Khan and agreed with a key Islamist to launch a "joint struggle" against Musharraf.

"I want to build an alliance, a single point agenda for the restoration of democracy," she told reporters.

Sharif, still in exile in Saudi Arabia, welcomed her call for Musharraf to quit as a "positive development."

Bhutto also spoke with the leader of Pakistan's main coalition of radical Islamist parties and to the head of a small nationalist ethnic Pashtun party, in the first signs she could unite the country's fractious opposition.

Next we have--despite Musharraf's stated reason for instituting the state of emergency--the Taliban and Al Qaeda making huge gains in the Swat area, and the government releasing Taliban leaders.

We're perilously close to an implosion in Pakistan. Bhutto now appears to be more interested in wresting power from Musharraf than she is in producing secular governance. And the jihadis have timed their surge out of the mountains and into the towns almost perfectly.

Maybe it's time to reprioritize US goals in the region:

  1. Secure the nukes.

  2. Secure the logistical tail for Afghanistan.

  3. Hit the insurgents hard, soon.

  4. Hope that a semi-democratic soft landing is possible for Pakistan.

I'd love for Pakistan to be a democracy. It's out of our control. But the US has significant strategic objectives that must be fulfilled.

This is the first time where the troop commitment in Iraq puts us at a serious disadvantage. The possibility that the US will need to invade Pakistan cannot be ruled out. Air power is unlikely to be effective and there are no ground forces available.

I sure hope we've got more diplomatic muscle than we seem to have. Musharraf needs to back down and give Bhutto enough clout that she can govern without the religioius parties. She's far from perfect, but she's the only one in a position to put the fire out right now.

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