Nov 06, 2007

Pakistan Nightmare Scenario

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (voice-over): It is the Bush administration's greatest fear: Today's Pakistan will become tomorrow's pre-9/11 Afghanistan, a lawless home base for extremists, where al Qaeda can regroup to plot and prepare future large-scale terrorist attacks.

After September 11, the White House relied on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to eliminate or at least contain the radical elements in his country. Today, with Pakistan now operating under virtual martial law, President Bush offered more support to the Pakistani president, despite worries that Musharraf might be destabilizing his own country.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals.

BERGEN: Well, yes and no. Pakistan has provided the United States with valuable intelligence, but in the past few years, the Taliban and al Qaeda have been rebuilding in Pakistan's wild tribal regions and attacking U.S. troops over the Afghan border.

Musharraf had vowed to drive the extremists out, first through military force and then by negotiating through tribal leaders. Meeting in Washington last year, President Bush sounded confident.

BUSH: When the president looks him in the eye and says the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people, and that there won't be Taliban and there won't be al Qaeda, I believe him.

BERGEN: But Musharraf's government hasn't delivered.

STEPHEN COHEN, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The cooperation in the so-called war on terrorism has been mediocre at best.

BERGEN: Terrorist attacks on the border have escalated. Pakistan expert Stephen Cohen argues the Bush administration expected too much of Musharraf. COHEN: We wanted him to round up al Qaeda. We wanted him deal with Taliban. Now we want him to expand democracy in Pakistan. No Pakistani leader could have delivered all of those items.

BERGEN: Now the terrorist threat has spread throughout Pakistan. Look at the devastating October attacks in Karachi. And with a country in crisis, the United States fears a post-Musharraf Pakistan could become dominated by radicals, opening a major new front on the war on terror. The nightmare scenario?

COHEN: Larger and larger amounts of Pakistani territory will be in a sense ungoverned. And in those areas you would see Taliban, but also al Qaeda units moving into those regions as a safe haven. There, we would be back exactly where we were with Afghanistan before 9/11.

BERGEN: A potential catastrophe. So, American hopes for a democratic Pakistan may have to wait.