There is increasing skepticism over Musharraf’s commitment to democracy, human
rights, and fight against terror. There is also increasing doubts about
Afghanistan’s capacity to fight terror. Fewer people are convinced of
Pakistan’s participation as a reliable and credible participation to hunt down
and kill Taliban and al Qaeda elements. This skepticism is reflected in Rice’s
solid support to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a severe critic of Musharraf,
in Islamabad as an “extraordinary leader and we’re going to back him, and back
him fully.” In order to maintain balance, Rice praised both allies for their
efforts in the war on terrorism but doubts can be seen in how Musharraf is
handling the crisis.
Rice said that there needs to be better “cooperation” among the US,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the region and said she will talk to Pakistan
“about what more we can do.” The statement, leaving Afghanistan out of the
conversation but pointedly at Pakistan, is a clear indictment and _expression
of displeasure on performance where Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders
have evaded capture for nearly five years.
Violence in Afghanistan, particularly the south, has been at worst levels
since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001. The resurgent violence has
killed 1100 people since January. This coincides with
increased trafficking of heroin into India and there is fear that
monies earned from drug trade are used for terrorist activities. Before its
ouster, this was the preferred mode of financing for the Taliban and it is
possible that it is back to its old ways again.
Depleting security in Afghanistan is also bringing anti-American and anti-Karzai
feeling in Afghanistan. Last month, Kabul saw some of the
worst riots targeting the post-Taliban regime and supporters after a genuine
accident. It is not clear whether these riots were orchestrated and led by
Rice disclosed that one of the objectives of her mission is to assess and
quantify help required for Afghanistan. In other words, she will find out
progress of the fight against terror and if necessary go back to the US
Congress for extra funds for Afghanistan.
Placating Pakistan for the public rebuke and veiled warning, the US Department
of Defense has assured Congress that weapon systems requested by Pakistan for
F-16 jets “would not significantly reduce India's quantitative or qualitative
military advantage. Release of the weapons systems will neither affect the
regional balance of power nor introduce a new technology as this level of
capability or higher already exists in other countries in the region.” The Bush
Administration approved the sale of 18 new F-16 fighter jets with an option of
offering 18 more to Pakistan.
In addition to the F-16s, Pakistan is also seeking 500 AIM-120C slammer
missiles, 5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 12 AMRAAM
training missiles, 200 AIM-9M-8/9 SIDEWINDER missiles, 500 Joint Direct Attack
Munitions (JDAM) Guidance Kits, GBU-31/38 Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) kits, and
1,600 Enhanced-GBU-12/24 GBUs.