Media Falls For Another Smokescreen On Al Qaeda Pursuit
This afternoon, in a joint appearance with President Bush, Pervez Musharraf defended his recent truces in Waziristan with tribal leaders there, claiming that he won’t be going soft on the Taliban and Al Qaeda as a result. Poppycock.
Musharraf and Bush spent a lot of their time on the diversionary nonissue of whether or not former Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage specifically threatened an attack against Pakistan in the weeks after 9/11 if they didn’t play ball with us on pursuing Al Qaeda. This is also irrelevant, as Bush claims he knows nothing about this, and Armitage says he gave Musharraf the typical “you’re either with us or against us” threat, which could have easily been construed the way Musharraf claims. Again it is a nonissue, but the whole flap serves the purpose of burying the more important story, which is that Musharraf has backed away from pursuing Bin Laden and will prohibit our forces from doing the same in Waziristan, at the encouragement of the Bush Administration.
Note how David Sanger of the Times missed the real story here, which was reported by McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay weeks ago.
The Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been negotiating truces - with the Bush administration's encouragement - with Islamic separatists in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border where U.S. officials think bin Laden may be hiding.
Neither Sanger nor the Post’s William Branigin in his story note that it was the Bush Administration that wanted Musharraf to back off Al Qaeda in Waziristan, or that Bush is repeating the same mistake twice: trusting the locals to do a job that Americans should be doing.
The Pakistani leader said that after his explanation, Bush was "satisfied with that deal."
Asked about it, Bush said, "I appreciated the briefing on the tribal deal. When the president looks me in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there won't be al-Qaeda, I believe him. . . . And when he says, if we find -- or when we find -- Osama bin Laden, he will be brought to justice, I believe him."
If we find Osama? Was that a Freudian slip?
Doesn’t anyone remember what happened the last time we let local tribal leaders handle this?
The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.
After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader.
How committed is this administration to bringing to justice the people behind 9/11 if we continually outsource the capturing of Mr. Dead or Alive to local tribal leaders and the ISI, who have already demonstrated time and again they support Al Qaeda? And yet the media keeps letting Bush off the hook.