Robert Kaplan realises that the FATWAT is the Taliban’s silent partner
Our backing of an enlightened government in Kabul should put us in a far stronger position than the Soviets in the fight to win back the hinterland. But it may not, and for a good reason: the involvement of our other ally in the region, Pakistan, in aiding the Taliban war machine is deeper than is commonly thought…
The situation is tragically simple: the very people we need to kill or apprehend we canâ€™t get at, because they are in effect protected by our so-called ally, Pakistan. All we can do is win tactical battles against foot soldiers inside Afghanistan, who are easily replaced. [NYT]
Despite finally getting the hang of it, Kaplan’s view of Gen Musharraf is still sympathetic. And overly so, for Kaplan subscribes to the conventional wisdom that “(Musharraf) is among the last of the Westernized, British-style officers in the national army; after him come the men with the beards”.
Musharraf’s military successors may lack his polished style or command over the English language, or even a facade of “enlightened moderation”. But however bearded and Islamist they might turn out, they will primarily act in the institutional interests of the Pakistani military establishment. Even as seasoned an observer of geopolitics as Kaplan misses an important point—the reason behind Musharraf’s signing on to the America’s war on terror was initially self-preservation and is now self-perpetuation, both institutional and personal. The bogey of a worse successor has long worked to this end.
The United States and India will see many more meaningful policy options arise if they were to stop believing that there is no alternative to Musharraf.
Afterthought: To be fair to Kaplan, he has reported Pakistani support for the Taliban in his earlier reports for The Atlantic.