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July 08, 2004

July surprise

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but The New Republic is reporting a "July Surprise" plan to bag major al Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan and Afghanistan just in time for the Democratic convention at the end of the month--and definitely before the election:

According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections."
But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

But really... what's the purpose of propping up a nuke-selling despot if you can't count on him to deliver the mujahadeens in time for the election? Of course, Pakistan is a hornet's nest, and this push could have unintended consequences:

Military action in the tribal areas "has a domestic fallout, both religious and ethnic," Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri complained to the Los Angeles Times last year. Some American intelligence officials agree. "Pakistan just can't risk a civil war in that area of their country. They can't afford a western border that is unstable," says a senior intelligence official, who anonymously authored the recent Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and who says he has not heard that the current pressures on Pakistan are geared to the election. "We may be at the point where [Musharraf] has done almost as much as he can."

Pushing Musharraf to go after Al Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president's reelection is at stake.

Posted by jay at July 8, 2004 07:43 AM | TrackBack
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Actually, there's always the possibility that they pull off capturing Osama in July and then people start wondering why, if the head bad guys have all been captured, we're still under tightening security and restrictions of personal freedoms. Nah. If Americans aren't smart enough to figure out that Saddam and Al Qaeda were just excuses to do what Bush has done, they won't get it after those guys are gone.

On the other hand, Tom Ridge today is warning of a terrorist attack to disrupt the November election, saying they've underestimated Americans' resolve. Uhm, yeah. Like we wouldn't notice that this little fear drill comes the day after Bush takes a nosedive in the polls.

Posted by: paulette on July 8, 2004 08:50 AM
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