Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moses Returns: Boucher Delivers The Commandments To Musharraf Personally

Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher didn't waste any time getting himself to Pakistan.

His routine emergency visit was announced last week, shortly after Condoleeza Rice's routine 2AM phone call to Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf.

As regular readers of this page may remember, last week around this time, Musharraf had been floating a trial balloon called "state of emergency". He had also decided at the last minute not to attend the peace jirga in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was scheduled to meet Hamid Karzai and make nicey-nice for photo-ops with the local tribal elders, as we are told by the western press, and most likely a motley assortment of puppets and warlords, as experience would lead us to believe.

Boucher's itinerary was not available last week, because, as the State Department explained it, the details had not been finalized, even though the trip had been arranged long beforehand. And the State Department has thus far been unwilling to reveal anything of the nature of the 2AM phone call, other than that Secretary Rice had felt "it was an opportune moment to talk about a couple of things" with President Musharraf.

But it doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out what those things must have been. The state of emergency was never declared, and instead the story was floated that everyone except the President General had wanted him to go that route, but he demurred.

Then Musharraf announced that he would be at the jirga before it ended, and sure enough, he was there for the closing formalities on Sunday. Standing up with Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan against terrorism, America's number one ally, President General Pervez Musharraf. Hooray!

And Musharraf even made a rare admission when he said
that support for militants emanating from Pakistan has caused problems for Afghanistan, and that his country should work to secure peace on its side of their mutual border.

“I realize this problem goes deeper, there is support from these areas,” General Musharraf told hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan delegates at a grand tribal assembly here. “There is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil. The problem that you have in your region is because support is provided from our side.”

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan nodded in agreement.

General Musharraf’s words, and his appearance at the final ceremony of the four-day meeting in Kabul, were a sharp reversal for him.

In the past, he has argued that the insurgency in Afghanistan is a homegrown problem and stems from dissatisfaction with the Afghan government. By contrast, Mr. Karzai has often asserted that the source of the Taliban insurgency lies in training camps and madrasas in Pakistan and that the insurgents take sanctuary there. Relations between the countries have deteriorated over the past two years as their presidents have repeated their conflicting accusations over and over.

As recently as Thursday, General Musharraf abruptly canceled his scheduled appearance at the opening ceremony of the jirga. At first the cancellation appeared to be a slight to Mr. Karzai, but it later emerged that domestic political problems kept him at home in Islamabad, where he met with aides to consider imposing emergency rule in the period leading up to elections. Enormous diplomatic and political pressure was brought to bear on the president over the issue, including a phone conversation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about 2 a.m. Thursday that seemed to help persuade him that an emergency-rule decree was not necessary.
Could it have been that Secretary Rice's 2AM message consisted of three parts?

[1] Thou shalt not declare an emergency,
[2] Thou shalt get thyself to Afghanistan for the jirga and take some responsibility, and
[3] Richard Boucher shall deliver the rest of the commandments in person ASAP.

If my conjecture is correct, we now know the remainder of the commandments.

Musharraf to abide by commitments on election, uniform; Boucher
ISLAMABAD, Aug 16 (APP): The United States Thursday said it was confident that President Pervez Musharraf will abide by the commitments made about holding of free and fair election and doffing his uniform.

“Yes there is a definite commitment ... for making a stable transition from the military rule to a duly elected government,” US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters at a press briefing at the end of his two-day visit.
This slightly contradicts the statements made earlier by Boucher's boss, John Negroponte, who said he thought Musharraf should decide on his own whether to run for re-election as General (in violation of the Pakistani constitution) or not (thus giving up the added stature that commanding the Army brings). As the Washington Post reported,
"I think that is something General Musharraf himself will want to decide," Mr. Negroponte said, conspicuously placing the general above Pakistan's constitution.
But given the visibility of the journey and the statement, I believe we can take Boucher's Commandments as being the official operative line, until of course they are seen to have been countermanded.
He said the United States was very supportive and shared the goals of the government of Pakistan of opening up of media, civil society, creation of economic opportunities, better health and education for the people of Pakistan.
And a chicken in every pot, and liberty equality fraternity for all, and an apple pie on every windowsill... Oh yeah. Translation: even though we act like big jerks, Americans are good people and no matter how much this is hurts, it's all for your own good... Oh yeah.
Asked whether any assurances were made about the issue of uniform, Boucher said the President has made public commitments that he will deal with the issue in accordance with the law and the constitution.
What does this mean exactly? Does it mean we expect him to honor those commitments? Does it mean we have told him we'll respect him in the morning even if he fails to honor them? It's difficult to read between the lines on this because we know the Americans especially Bush are saying they believe Pakistan will have a free and fair election, and those of us who follow elections in the USA must all be wondering what Bush's name is doing in the same sentence as "free and fair election". Is Pervez going to get a "free and fair election" just like Georgie got? Wise money would never bet against such a thing.
Referring to his meetings with the representatives of several political parties Boucher said the US does not favour any particular political party, and the only objective was to encourage and strengthen democracy in Pakistan.
And apple pie in every pot, and a chicken on every windowsill. Who could argue with any of this?
Responding to a question about the telephone call made by Secretary Condoleeza Rice to President Musharraf when rumours were rife of emergency rule, he said: “we have a relationship where our leaders talk frequently. When something is going on, they pick up the phone, call each other, interact, talk to those directly involved in decision making.”
Sure, they do. And it doesn't even matter what time it is or anything. When you step out of line you get a phone call. What's the mystery?
Asked about statements by US officials of an action in Pakistan's tribal areas if there was “actionable intelligence”, he said: “We are partners with Pakistan in the war against terrorism. We act together...we work together.” The two countries will cooperate if there was actionable intelligence, he added.
Earth to Obama: Are you listening? “We are partners with Pakistan in the war against terrorism. We act together...we work together.”
Boucher defended the recent Pakistan-specific US legislation, saying it will help the administration convince the Congress about Pakistan's role in countering terrorism.
This is a very nifty bit of spin. The "Pakistan-specific US legislation" makes US aid to Pakistan conditional on Pakistani efforts to fight Islamic extremists. US military aid to Pakistan runs about $100 million per month; and the Pakistani military didn't seem to be doing much. The threat of losing that "income stream" is very powerful, and the Pakistanis were none too impressed. Describing such a threat as something that "will help the administration convince the Congress about Pakistan's role" is diplomacy-speak for "there had better be some concrete evidence of Pakistan's role to report". But in a nice way.
He said there was not enough appreciation in the United States for all the efforts Pakistan was making in the war against global terrorism.
On this point I agree with Richard Boucher entirely, and then some.
“We are going to have no problems in putting together a good report for our Congress on what Pakistan is doing to fight terrorism ... will point out the steps taken, the sacrifices made,” Boucher said.
He's quite right about this, too. Skirmishes between Pakistani military and militant extremists are happening every day now, sometimes several clashes per day. Sometimes patrols or convoys get ambushed, sometimes the army seems to have the initiative. It's too soon, too far away, and too low-intensity for me to give you any idea who is winning -- so far. But the level of conflict is indeed up significantly in the last month or two, certainly compared to its level over the winter.

Even excluding the losses suffered by the Pakistani military in the "lawless" mountainous regions near the Afghan border, Pakistan has indeed suffered greatly in the Terror War. Last year (2006) more than 650 terrorist attacks killed more than 900 people. This year the toll will almost certainly be higher. The sacrifices have indeed been enormous.

But the commandments are clear. Onward, Pakistani soldiers!!