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PAK Bdr Shooting 1

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

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Pakistan: A Border Shooting and Musharraf's Troubles

Stratfor: Global Intelligence Brief - May 14, 2007





A NATO soldier was killed and four were wounded May 14 after

meeting with Pakistani and Afghan forces. NATO said "unknown

assailants" opened fire on the soldiers. The Pakistani and Afghan

governments have offered wildly different accounts of the attack.

The incident spells more trouble for Pakistani President Gen.

Pervez Musharraf's ability to tame his government's relations with

Afghanistan and to convince Washington he has what it takes to hold

the Pakistani army together while a political crisis boils at home.




Service members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance

Force (ISAF) held a flag meeting with Pakistani and Afghan forces

May 14 in the Kurram tribal agency on the Pakistani side of the

Pakistani-Afghan border. After the meeting, which was called to

stem a border clash between Pakistani troops and Afghans that

started the previous day, "unknown assailants" ambushed the ISAF

members near Teri Mangal as the convoy traveled back to the Afghan

side of the border, leaving one NATO solider dead and four wounded,

according to a NATO statement.


Three to four U.S. soldiers and three to four Pakistani soldiers

also were injured, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed

Arshad said, though Pakistan's GEO TV reported that one U.S.

soldier and one Pakistani soldier were killed. Another senior

Pakistani security official said a man disguised as a Pakistani

paramilitary soldier had opened fire on the troops.


The Afghan government offered a starkly different account, however.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said that at the

meeting, "A Pakistani officer rose up and fired at U.S. soldiers,

resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and the wounding of two



Evidently, many different stories are circulating. But it appears

that a group of jihadists fired at the NATO convoy after the

meeting ended. A great deal of resentment is brewing among Pashtuns

in the Kurram tribal agency, and it would be reasonable to assume

that a NATO convoy would be vulnerable to an attack in the area,

particularly after the killing of the Taliban's top military

commander, Mullah Dadullah.


The attack and recent border clashes between Pakistani troops and

Afghan troops follow an April 30 meeting between Pakistani

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai

in Ankara, Turkey, aimed at quelling hostilities between the two

governments. Afghan-Pakistani relations have long been on the rocks

because of Kabul's repeated allegations that Islamabad is

dangerously undermining stability in the region by fueling the

Taliban insurgency next door. Pakistani moves to build a security

fence along the border have further inflamed tensions between Kabul

and Islamabad, since the Afghan government views such an effort in

an area that is essentially impossible to fence because of the

terrain as a blatant attempt to seize Afghan territory.


Faced with a growing political imbroglio at home over the

suspension of Pakistan's chief justice, Musharraf has decided to

clear his plate a bit by making a concerted effort to improve

relations with his Afghan neighbors. Though the two countries have

deep-rooted Pashtun ties, Pakistan cannot afford to alienate the

Afghan government too much for fear of losing influence in Kabul,

contributing to the spread of Talibanization within Pakistan's

own borders and giving longtime rival India an opportunity to cozy

up to the Afghan government and team up against Islamabad.


Musharraf's meeting with Karzai did result in some notable

improvements in the Afghan-Pakistani relationship, with both sides

agreeing to share intelligence and quell the jihadist insurgency

engulfing the region. The intelligence that led to the death of

Dadullah might have been the Musharraf government's way of

delivering on the promises it made to Karzai at that summit, though

the Afghan government clearly is not ready to ease the pressure off

the Pakistani leader any time soon.


By claiming that a Pakistani soldier simply stood up at the meeting

and fired at U.S. soldiers, the Afghan government delivered a

politically motivated message to Washington that Musharraf cannot

be relied on to cooperate on the counterterrorism front, and that

he cannot even control his own military. Though the NATO statement

contradicted the Afghan story, the idea that Musharraf is gradually

losing his grip on the Pakistani army could be gaining some ground

in Washington.


The political crisis in Pakistan reached its tipping point May

12-13, when more than 42 demonstrators in the southern port city of

Karachi were killed in clashes between pro-government and

opposition protesters. The legal row over suspended Chief Justice

Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry's dismissal has so emboldened Pakistan's

civil society and political opposition parties that everywhere

Chaudhry travels massive street demonstrations follow in a show of

support against the Musharraf government.


The Pakistani government attempted to quell the demonstrations by

playing up militant threats against Chaudhry, urging him to not

travel by car and to keep a low profile, but Chaudhry saw through

the political ploy and has continued to catalyze mass protests

throughout the country. By instigating violent protests ,

Musharraf and his advisers likely were hoping the ensuing

instability would pressure Chaudhry into toning down his campaign

and bring calm to Pakistan. But this appears to be yet another

miscalculation by Musharraf, as the opposition protesters have only

became more emboldened following the deadly riots in Karachi.


Pakistan's generals are watching closely as Musharraf's support is

rapidly eroded, and they are now seeing it in their best interest

to distance themselves as much as possible from the president. It

appears that even the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the

media arm of the military, has been told to back away from

Musharraf. Though the director-general of ISPR has recently

operated as Musharraf's press secretary and has often come to the

defense of the president, routine journalistic inquiries addressed

to the ISPR are now being directed to the Ministry of Information

and Broadcasting. In other words, the ISPR appears to have been

issued a directive of some sort telling it not take a stand and to

keep a safe distance from the political crisis.


The Karachi riots have backed Musharraf into a tighter corner, and

if he wants to finagle his way out of this mess, he will have to

make the appropriate concessions: reinstate the chief justice,

stand down as army chief and strike a deal with the country's main

opposition group, Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P)

that allows PPP-P leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

to save face for dealing with a president whose image has been

severely tarnished.


Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Musharraf has been

left with little choice but to yield to the demands of his

opponents -- or else risk being pressured by the army generals to

step aside in the interest of safeguarding the authority of the

military establishment. The Karachi riots have created a scenario

in which the best Musharraf can hope for is to be able to play a

role in the transition from military to civilian rule during the

early 2008 general election and negotiate to stay on as a

transitional president, a post that could provide him a safe exit

from power. If he does not move soon to quell this political

crisis, Washington could need to seriously consider what it can

expect from a post-Musharraf regime in Islamabad.

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