Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Pakistani Connection in the London Bomb Plot

According to yesterday's Los Angeles Times report on the detention in Pakistan of terror suspects in the London liquid-bomb plot, there is mounting concern in the U.S. that deep pockets of Islamist extremism in Pakistan make that country the central front in the war on terror:

The trail of evidence in the British terrorism investigation is leading to an uncomfortable question for the Bush administration: Is Pakistan — and not Iraq, Afghanistan or some other country — the central front in the war on terrorism? The alleged conspiracy described by British and American authorities serves as a reminder that one of the administration's leading allies in the region is also host to some of its worst enemies. It also is igniting a debate on whether the administration's effort to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has done enough to stem Islamic radicalism in a country whose citizens are among the most strongly anti-American in the worldl....Pakistan announced Friday that it had detained several suspects this week, including a British national considered an important figure in the alleged British plot. U.S. and British investigators say that some of the 24 people arrested in Britain, most of them British citizens of Pakistani descent, may have had ties to radical fundamentalist groups in Pakistan. Similarly, the bombers who attacked the London transit system last year had ties to Pakistani groups. Although Musharraf has helped the Bush administration fight some terrorist organizations in his country, he has done little to halt others or bring to justice the government officials who support them. Yet the administration, already pressing Musharraf for help on a number of fronts, fears that pushing the weak leader of an unstable, nuclear-armed government too far could make matters worse.
Read the whole thing. The U.S. relationship with Pakistan in the war on terror is a throwback to America's partnerships with a number of Third World client states during the Cold War -- U.S. governments routinely backed authoritarian regimes with dismal human rights records, justified on realpolitik grounds as necessitated by larger strategic imperatives. Today, U.S. support for the Musharraf regime is firm, echoing previous eras, although there is substantial concern that Pakistan's Islamist breeding ground may portend disaster in the larger struggle against global terror.

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