and UAVs for Pakistan: US Arming of an Islamic Terrorist Nation
Much more than US electoral politics is getting buried under the sand kicked up by US President George W. Bush's upcoming march through the deserts of Iraq. Behind the scenes, in discussions between US and Pakistani officials, the long time consensus on not supplying nuclear delivery vehicles and other strategic weaponry to the unstable Islamic nation of Pakistan is being undone. Under consideration for supply to Pakistan are C-130 transport strategic transport planes, attack helicopters, F-16s and UAVs.
Most of these are not weapons designed to fight tiny bands of terrorists from Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or other Al Qaeda-related groups sheltered by the ISI. The C-130s can be used for rapidly transporting men and equipment to front lines on the Indo-Pakistan border. The helicopters will undoubtedly be used to repulse any anti-terrorist operations carried out by India in Pakistan-controlled territory. The UAVs are already used to monitor Indian military counter-terrorism operations near the LOC. And the F-16s are the icing on the cake. They have long been considered one of the primary means of delivering nuclear bombs by Pakistan to Indian cities. The F-16s would also be used to intercept Indian Air Force planes that attempt to destroy terrorist camps in Pakistani territory.
Pakistan is regarded as the most likely domino to fall apart under Islamic pressure. The government is run by a military dictator who claims to support the US war against terrorism while at the same time his military and his notorious intelligence agency, ISI, continue to harbor Al Qaeda-related groups. A large part of the September 11 infrastructure survives in Pakistani terrorist bases and cities, patiently waiting to act against the US, while continuing to hone their skills against India. Most of the terrorists are being hosted in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, from where their entry into India is facilitated by the Pakistani military and intelligence.
Any terrorists handed over by Pakistan to the US appear to be part of barter deals. Abu Zubaida was handed over just as US officials kept mute about the sham referendum Musharraf carried out last April. The handing over of Bin Al-Shibh, "captured" a couple of weeks ago, was accompanied by a new $300 million loan write off by the US for Pakistan. This pattern of fishing out 'prize catches' at important moments in Pakistan-US relations is not a coincidence but a master plan of using terrorists as trading cards, as has been pointed out in columns of Kashmir Herald earlier. The nation of Pakistan still hosts madrassas which graduate thousands of anti-US jehadis every year.
It is clear Musharraf or his generals are no allies of the United States against terror. They are merely doing whatever necessary to keep themselves in power. Their true strength derives from tacit backing by jehadis, not the US military. Arming them to their teeth is a sure recipe to further encourage their hosting and sponsoring of terrorists, and eventual turning of those weapons against the US itself. The Bush administration needs to stop and think whether it is creating a problem that is far larger in magnitude than the fatal problem of Al Qaeda which was created by similar disjointed US thinking two decades ago.