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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

US wants Pakistan to bite the bullet
Syed Saleem Shahzad
After more than six years, Pakistan finds itself in probably the most difficult position it has been in since signing on as a partner in the US-led “war on terror”.
The political turmoil created by the recent assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and the consolidation of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the country just months ahead of another Taliban spring offensive in Afghanistan have made Washington decidedly anxious that Islamabad do something decisive about the situation. But while Pakistan wants to remain on side with the US, and the West, by taking appropriate action against militancy, this carries with it the grave danger of exacerbating the situation, and opening up the country to further terror.
A senior Pakistani security official elaborated for Asia Times Online, “We have actually been thrown into a deep quagmire where we are not left with many options. The CIA’s presence in Pakistan has made it impossible for Pakistan to handle the Taliban problem independently and through dialogue. On the other hand, there is no military solution on the horizon against the Taliban and another [Pakistani army] operation against militants would cause more than serious repercussions.”
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity as his job does not allow him to speak on the record, continued, “Now we are at a crossroad and we feel threatened that if this problem escalates it may give Western powers and their regional allies a chance to justify an attack on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Therefore, we are walking a tightrope where, on the one hand our strategic ties with the West are at risk if we don’t adhere to their demands, but on the other hand our own internal security is at risk.
“Nevertheless,” he added, “nations do take steps on a priority basis for their internal security.”
Reports from the US at the weekend indicate that the George W Bush administration wants to expand the authority of the CIA and the military to conduct more aggressive covert operations in Pakistan.
While a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman has officially dismissed the notion as fanciful, this does not rule out the likelihood of heavy CIA involvement on targets identified through intelligence on both sides of the border.
The overriding goal will be to cut the supply lines of the Taliban and al-Qaeda between Pakistan and Afghanistan by squeezing them between coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan forces across the border. …

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