Musharraf: More U.S. Troops Needed In Afghanistan

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Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 i

Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years. He was forced to resign in August 2008, after mass protests broke out in response to his firing of top Pakistani judges. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at the U.N. General Assembly in 2006

Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years. He was forced to resign in August 2008, after mass protests broke out in response to his firing of top Pakistani judges.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, is coy these days about whether he'd like to return home and run for the position that he once seized by force, but even in the United States, he talks like a man on the campaign trail.

Musharraf appeared today on NPR's Talk of the Nation, fielding questions ranging from U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to the protection of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal from terrorists.

A career Army man who seized power in a 1999 military coup, Musharraf stood by Pakistan's powerful military, even while saying he would need the support of the country's people to return to politics.

NPR's Neal Conan asked the 66-year-old former president what advice he would give President Obama on strategy in Afghanistan.

Would he support the counterterrorism approach, in which the U.S. would not increase its troop strength in Afghanistan, but would use intelligence information and airstrikes to hit al-Qaida and its leadership, Conan asked.

Or would he support the counterinsurgency approach favored by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who has said he'll need up to 40,000 more American troops to take and hold Afghan territory, and create security for the Afghan people?

Musharraf insisted that the two strategies can't be separated because of the linkages between the terrorist group, al-Qaida, and the insurgents, the Taliban. He said he "totally" supports Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his call for more American troops.

Nuclear Weapons

NPR Senior Analyst Ted Koppel pressed Musharraf on a key U.S. concern: the safe-keeping of Pakistan's nuclear warheads. The issue was revived this year by reports that militants had attempted at least one attack on the country's nuclear facilities. Pakistani officials have denied that any such attack took place.

Musharraf insisted that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are in safe hands — guarded, he said, by an Army force of up to 18,000 troops and controlled by a command authority led by the president, the prime minister and top military officials.

He addressed only peripherally the possibility that the command itself could allow weapons or nuclear materials to fall into militant hands.

"Politically, Pakistan cannot in the foreseeable future be ruled by an extremist group that has sympathy with the terrorists," Musharraf said.

U.S. Aid

The former general said he sides with the Pakistani military in its anger over the conditions that could be attached to a U.S. aid bill that would triple the amount of development funding to $1.5 billion a year.

Pakistani military officials have complained that the bill, co-authored by Sens. John Kerry and Richard Lugar, contains "humiliating" conditions. The bill stipulates, for instance, that the money could dry up if Pakistan fails to fight militants, including Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the tribal regions along the Afghan border.

The measure would also require Pakistan to provide information about networks that have supplied nuclear technology to other nations. That is a reference to Pakistan's nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, who was accused of selling his country's nuclear technology to countries such as Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Musharraf complained repeatedly that although Pakistan has been touted as America's most important ally in the fight against terrorist groups, "this most important ally is being treated with suspicion. We must be treated with trust and cooperation."

Relations

On other issues, Musharraf defended his country's preoccupation with what he called "an existential threat to Pakistan" from neighboring India. U.S. officials have complained that military aid intended to help Pakistan fight militants on the Afghan border has been diverted to Pakistan's disputed border with India in Kashmir.

Although he said that he believes peace with India is "a requirement, a compulsion" for both sides, he said the U.S. should not grudge Pakistan the right to take "essential measures" in response to the threat of an attack from India.

That right, he said, would extend to any use Pakistan might make of American drone aircraft. Musharraf said he did not agree with the U.S. use of drone attacks inside Pakistan. "It has had tremendous negative fallout on the public of Pakistan, because it is considered a violation of our sovereignty," he said.

Musharraf said he has always believed that the drones should be given to Pakistan, for use at Pakistan's discretion.

The former general returned often to the theme of what he called "the trust deficit that is increasing" between the people of Pakistan and the U.S. He said it traces back to the Pakistani feeling that the U.S. abandoned Pakistan after the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989.

"We were totally ditched," he said, accusing the U.S. of doing nothing to help Pakistan deal with some 4 million Afghan refugees or 25,000 Afghan fighters who later became Taliban.

"After 9/11," Musharraf said, "when we decided to join the coalition, I was asked, 'What makes you think the U.S. is not going to dump us again?' "

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