When you and your ally aren't talking about the same thing

Four years ago, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan printed the content of a note to him by an unnamed friend (now archived at the P-D). The subject was George Bush and Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan:

I'm flat worried. I can't believe this guy Musharraf has pledged Pakistan's cooperation with us in our latest crusade. I don't even want to think about a coup or a popular uprising in the country that happens to be the proud owner of the only bonafide, field-tested nuclear bomb in the Islamic world.

But apparently, our president is telling a lot of these countries to 'choose sides.' Whoa. Slow down here. We're demanding these leaders to jump, right now, either to the right or to the left when their political survival requires them to walk a very high tightrope with no net.

Musharraf has got to put up with his own Talibanistas in the sticks, and his own military has been waging a 'terrorist' war against India over Kashmir. If he and President Bush claim to be in agreement it can only be because they aren't talking about the same thing.

And now the entire world sees that Bush and Musharraf weren't exactly on the same page:

Pakistan, Taliban sign peace pact

Having failed to counter the insurgent Talibans in the Waziristan tribal region on the Pak Afghan border, the Pakistan Army Tuesday entered into yet another peace agreement with the pro-Taliban militants, primarily "to ensure a permanent peace in the area and to put an end to the continuing unrest in the Waziristan region."

The agreement was signed after a meeting between a group of the local Taliban leaders and a jirga formed by the Pakistani military authorities to mediate on their behalf. According to the official sources, senior army officers and Taliban militants hugged and congratulated each other after inking the agreement at a school in Miran Shah.

The next graf is rather telling:

The breakthrough was achieved after the military accepted most of the militants’ demands — the release of all their men, return of their weapons and vehicles seized during various army operations, dismantling of the army check posts in the area, restoration of all perks and privileges of the tribal people and monetary compensation for all those residents of the area who were either killed and whose property was damaged during military operations.

Most of today's media's focus on Pakistan deals with the question of whether or not Osama bin Laden will be allowed to build a summer villa in North Waziristan and collect his mail without pesky worries over being arrested and deported. The Blotter at the ABC News site is running dueling posts on the subject even now. Bin Laden's status in Pakistan may be hazy - a matter of "hair-splitting," to borrow Pakistani Major General Shaukat Sultan might put it - but the peace pact between Pakistan and the Taliban is cold, hard fact. The White House is, for the moment, stunned and stammering over Islamabad's rapprochement with an avowed enemy. Bush will try to put a brave face on developments, but there's no getting around his having been made to look a fool by Musharraf, who - as McClellan's correspondent pointed out - has concerns of his own, and no great motivation to stick his neck out for Washington. The president of Pakistan made that quite clear while visiting Hamid Karzai, in Afghanistan:

Musharraf also said Pakistan would never allow U.S.-led coalition forces - currently hunting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters on the Afghan side of the border - into tribal areas on its side.

"On our side of the border there will be a total uprising if a foreigner enters that area," he said. "It's not possible at all, we will never allow any foreigners into that area. It's against the culture of the people there."

When you're fighting a war, it pays to be on the same page as your ally.


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