Sunday, March 2, 2008
Word that the United States plans to send trainers to Pakistan this year to teach counterinsurgency techniques to the country's military officials is most likely a signal that Washington is looking ahead to the post-Musharraf era and the deployment of U.S. or NATO troops to fight al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents. Musharraf has long resisted the use of foreign troops in the Muslim country, even as his battle against extremists lagged, but he is probably in his last days as head of the nuclear-armed nation. Musharraf is no longer the head of the armed forces, and his civilian party was trounced in the recent parliamentary election. Presuming he doesn't declare another emergency and lock up his political opponents, whomever is his successor will probably look more favorably on stepped-up U.S. support. Candidates from the late Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N parties won more than 150 seats in the 268-member National Assembly. Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Q won only 40 seats. As many as 100 U.S. trainers could be in Pakistan by June, according to the Associated Press. The United States supplied Musharraf with more than $10 billion to fight extremists since he seized power in 1999, but he said recently that he was no longer actively searching for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders believed hiding along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The United States blames al-Qaida for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon.