Is it working now, Condi?

Integrating our counterterrorism and regional strategies was the most difficult and the most important aspect of the new strategy to get right. Al Qaeda was both a client of and a patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided Al Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection and we had to sever that. This was not easy. Not that we hadn’t tried.

Within a month of taking office, President Bush sent a strong private message to President Musharraf urging him to use his influence with the Taliban to bring bin Laden to justice and to close down Al Qaeda training camps. Secretary Powell actively urged the Pakistanis including Musharraf himself to abandon support for the Taliban. I remember well meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister, and I think I referred to this meeting in my private meeting with you, in my office in June of 2001. And I delivered what I considered to be a very tough message. He met that message with a rote answer and with an expressionless response. America’s Al Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. [Condoleezza Rice’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission, via New York Times]

So Dr Rice, is the Pakistan policy working now? Other than a small segment of the ruling elite, the United States has no sympathisers or supporters in Pakistan. Musharraf himself defines the Taliban as member’s of Mullah Omar’s erstwhile regime and has recently offered a general amnesty to al Qaeda terrorists who his forces could not or would not capture. Beyond Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar, the thousands of armed extremist jehadis on the loose in Pakistan constitute a real danger to both the United States and the region. The United States has exerted little pressure on Musharraf to clean up this terrorist beehive, and he has at best swept the jehadis under Afghan carpets. Zalmay Khalilzad does speak up once in a while, but his voice is drowned out by subsequent reinterpretations by the ‘official State department spokesman’ who gives the usual clean chit to Musharraf.

Regular Band-Aid solutions cannot be a substitute for good policy. And that good policy is promoting institutional democratic change in Pakistan. But before that there remains the task of defanging the jehadis, sending the Army back into the barracks and assisting civil society to revamp the education system.

Related Links:

Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan’s Failure to Tackle Extremism: Musharraf’s failure owes less to the difficulty of implementing reforms than to the military government’s own unwillingness.

Two years on, however, the failure to deliver to any substantial degree on pledges to reform the madrasas and contain the growth of jihadi networks means that religious extremism in Pakistan continues to pose a threat to domestic, regional and international security…

However, to date no such regulation has been promulgated. Most madrasas remain unregistered. No national syllabus has been developed. No rules on funding of madrasas have been adopted. The government has repeated the rhetoric of mainstreaming madrasa education on many occasions but has pledged that it will not interfere in the affairs of those schools. While three model madrasas have been set up and have enrolled around 300 students, as many as 1.5 million students attend unregulated madrasas.

While several Pakistani groups were banned, their leaders were not prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Many, though banned a second time in November 2003, continue to function unhindered and are likely to resurface under new names again.

The government has done very little to implement tougher controls on financing of either madrasas or extremist groups despite obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373. It has failed to pass the necessary laws, even removing the issue of terrorism funding from draft regulations on money laundering on the misleading claim that it was already covered under an earlier law on terrorism.[Jan 2004 ICG report from Crisisweb]