Published 16 January 06
Walid Phares, Ph.D.
World Defense Review columnist
The US and Pakistan
Allies or Not Allies Is the Question
The U.S. Predator strike inside Pakistan's border area, aimed at al-Zawahri's possible stay in a village may or may not have missed its target. But the missile attack triggered a series of political explosions in the region. In short, the issues are out. I addressed them in a series of interviews over the weekend.
Here is a summary:
1. The official Pakistani position
The government's immediate reaction was to condemn the strike, to the surprise of many Americans and still the dismay of the Jihadists. Why did Islamabad lodge a complaint with the U.S. embassy in Pakistan? In an MSNBC interview, I argued that had the U.S. strike been successful, Pakistan would have taken credit. But since the strike wasn't successful (until proven otherwise), Pakistani politics come first: It is a fact that Pakistani areas close to the border with Afghanistan are dominated by pro-Taliban forces. It is also a fact that Pakistan's Salafist parties have a significant influence in the country. [ View video ]
2. Is al-Zawahri dead or not?
Strangely, it was an Arab network, al Arabiya, that informed the world, that according to its "sources" al Qaida's number-two man wasn't killed and is still "around." This is an interesting indicator of the vast resources of many Arab TV networks in establishing contacts with sources able to inform them about the state of al Qaida. [ View video ]
3. Jihadi reaction to the strike
In an interview with MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, I argued that the main goal of the Jihadist movements inside Pakistan, in reaction to the strike, was to drive a wedge between Islamabad and Washington: Take advantage of the attack, especially its failure (unless reported otherwise), to blame the Musharraf Government for "opening" the country to U.S. control. [ View video ]
4. Why the U.S. strikes inside Pakistan?
This question is important especially in light of the "incitement" unleashed by the Jihadists as a result of the attack. Why is the U.S. using drones to target terrorist objectives inside Pakistan? For a very simple reason: Pakistan isn't doing it, or can't do it for a variety of reasons. As I told MSNBC on Saturday, "Had Pakistani intelligence and the 80,000 troops been able to find and remove al Qaida from these areas, they wouldn't have had to perform these operations. But civilian casualties are always bad and unacceptable, whatever their identification is." [ View video ]
5. The alliance is being tested now
In an interview Sunday on MSNBC, I noted that the alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan against al Qaida is up and running. The organization attempted to assassinate Musharraf, and continues to wage operations against many countries. But the alliance is being tested now. As far as possible scenarios are concerned (until proven otherwise); either the U.S. learned about al-Zawahri's movement (and al-Zawahri was tipped off), or the possibility that sympathizers of al Qaida may have circulated the information to draw a U.S. response. [ View video ]
6. The Jihadist propaganda counter-strike
The strike and the Pakistani reaction opened the path for a vast debate in the Arab media on what was dubbed by the Jihadist machine as an "American attack on a Pakistani Muslim village." In a panel on al Jazeera on Saturday, along with the former director of Pakistan's intelligence, M. Ghoul, and an official of Islamist organizations in the border areas, I exchanged several arguments with the panelists. The anchor of the program, "Ma Wara' al khabar" (Behind the News), raised the issue of U.S. "aggression" against Pakistan, endorsed by the two other panelists. Both guests defined it as an "American shelling of a Pakistani Muslim village." I noted that the strike was aimed at an al Qaida target "inside" the village, not a "shelling of the village." I explained that the U.S. operates on the assumption that there is an alliance with Pakistan against al Qaida, "unless this has changed lately." I asked the panelists, without getting an answer, if al Qaida is or is not an enemy in Pakistan. Responding to statements that "Al-Zawahri was never there, nor is al Qaida present in these areas," I argued that it is not likely that al-Zawahri is going to inform all in the neighborhood that he is attending a dinner party in the area, nor is it likely that al Qaida signals its open presence in the border areas. The conclusion in my estimation was clear: Either Pakistan considers al Qaida an enemy or it does not: Either it consider the U.S. an ally in this war, or not. If these two parameters are clarified, both governments have to establish a clear modus operandi in their campaign against terrorists.
— Walid Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut, and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He currently teaches Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University.
Dr. Phares has written seven books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, and Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and BBC as well as on radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittee on the Middle East and South East Asia and regularly conducts congressional and State Department briefings.
Dr. Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.
© 2006 Walid Phares
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