Within minutes of last Sunday’s announcement that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden at his conspicuous compound in Pakistan, accusations regarding the role played by his adopted country-of-residence began to fly. Had Pakistan’s notorious intelligence service (the ISI) known about bin Laden’s whereabouts all along? Or was a glaring oversight simply a sign of the agency’s incompetence?
Compounding things, the international community has moved ponderously, even lethargically, to aid the survivors. According to Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Saudi Arabia has led all countries in providing aid, with about $112 million, followed by the United States with nearly $76 million, and then the United Kingdom's nearly $65 million. Pakistan's neighbor and regional rival, India, has offered very little, while Pakistan's all-weather friend, China, has ponied up a paltry $9 million thus far. The total sum, according to the NDMA, amounts to only $524.93 million.
Benazir Bhutto was murdered (along with 24 of her nameless countrymen) two-and-a-half years ago. Edward Jay Epstein has discovered that there was actually no proper—and barely an improper—investigation of the slaying. Her crooked and shiftless husband succeeded Musharraf as president, not that she wasn’t crooked herself. But shiftless she was not. Anybody is likely to be assassinated in Pakistan.
On August 26, 2008, Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, touched down for a secret meeting on an aircraft carrier stationed in the Indian Ocean. The topic: Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The summit had been arranged the previous month. Mullen had grown anxious about the rising danger from Pakistan’s tribal areas, which Islamic militants were using as a base from which to strike American troops in Afghanistan and to plot terrorist attacks against the United States. He flew to Islamabad to see the country’s army chief of staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Some simple rules of thumb for the foreign ex-dictator out to make a mint on the U.S. lecture circuit: Get yourself included in a speakers’ series that features non-controversial names like Laura Bush and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Promise your “august audience” a “frank exchange.” Maybe drop the names of one or two revered American leaders who are your close friends.
General Stanley McChrystal's request to send more troops to Afghanistan has induced sticker shock for many Americans--including, apparently, President Obama. The integrated counterinsurgency, or COIN, strategy that McChrystal wants to pursue has many components: protecting Afghan civilians, rapidly expanding the Afghan army and police, reforming government, providing economic development assistance, weaning Taliban fighters and leaders away from Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, reconciling them into the new government, and targeting those who refuse.
It wasn't until I reported my print piece on how much Barack Obama's foreign policy--from closing Gitmo to Iran to the global economy-- depends on the Saudis that I appreciated the influence Riyadh has over its Sunni ally Pakistan. One illustration of that: Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military dictator pushed from office last year, flew on a Saudi jet to Riyadh this week to meet with Saudi King Abdullah, in what regional news outlets are suggesting could be part of a Saudi-brokered deal to spare Musharraf, now residing in London, from treason charges back home.
PAKISTANIS TREAT THEIR military achievements like pop icons. Photos of the nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan are waved at rallies, and a street in Islamabad bears his name. Replica models of the mountain site where the country tests its nuclear bombs stand at the center of traffic circles. And the angular black silhouette of the F-16 fighter jet is such a treasured image that it is often found on the brilliantly colored commercial trucks that rumble along Pakistan’s highways.
Last fall, during Asif Ali Zardari's first foreign trip as head of state, the Pakistani president met with Sarah Palin in New York City. The meeting occurred amid Palin's other campaign cameos with U.S.-friendly world leaders, most of whom could manage little more than an awkward grimace amid the onslaught of flashbulbs. (Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo reportedly flat-out refused to meet her.) But Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and oft-described playboy, looked delighted as he greeted--and then charmed--the vice-presidential candidate.