Showtime Or Showdown In Pakistan?
Though not exactly an in-depth analysis of recent events inside Pakistan between Musharraf and the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, I've written an article for FrontPage magazine in which I attempt to communicate what to look for (in the longer view) going forward. The concluding paragraph could have also served as the introduction paragraph in Showdown or Showtime In Pakistan?
All would do well to know what to look for in recognizing al-Qaeda control of Pakistan that would be present in a less-than-overt manner. Failure to do so could be incredibly costly.
Whether removed by successful assassination or overthrow, the eventual replacement of Musharraf as Pakistan's leader is very likely to be an al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist and almost certainly one which will put forth a duplicitous and false front of non-aligned pragmatism for international consumption.
In short, bin Laden's seemingly destined control of Pakistan will decidedly not include anything overtly declaring such - the survival of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires it.
When al-Qaeda finally takes control of Pakistan, it will almost certainly not give the appearance of a military conquest with bin Laden hoisting the Keys to the Kingdom above his head. There will be, by necessity, a different figure taking the reigns and riding to Pakistan's rescue, complete with pragmatic statements intended for international digestion in order to cause pause in reaction. Were al-Qaeda to overtly and directly seize Pakistan, wrest her military and control her nuclear weapons, the United States would most assuredly destroy them in place.
This is why al-Qaeda's available 200,000+ man armed force has not been mobilized for a Pakistan-wide insurgency and also why bin Laden and Zawahiri have so patiently employed a slow 'Death By A Thousand Cuts' strategy against Musharraf.
Also, keep in mind that an immensely weakened Musharraf - currently begging for the restoration of North Waziristan's 'peace accord' - combined with a politically immobilized US President Bush both serve to insulate al-Qaeda from direct assault on al-Qaeda's Global Headquarters in northwestern Pakistan.
Musharraf has nothing to give the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance that they do not already have in trade for the restoration of the 'peace accord.' That is, except for even more Pakistani territory.
So, after Lal Masjid and the false appearance of an emboldened Musharraf, the al-Qaeda strategy (Lal Masjid was a staged, planned al-Qaeda ploy) will net a stronger Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and an even weaker Musharraf.
One more ever-patient cut, seeking to slowly bleed Musharraf out and usurp Pakistan with its military - and thus the security of its nuclear arsenal - intact. And an aligned figurehead such as Hamid Gul or, less likely, Nawaz Sharif or another, will be put forth with a pragmatic face.
By design, an al-Qaeda-run Pakistan will not appear so to the unobservant. But it will come to be. Pay attention. It's free.