Musharraf Exit May Affect U.S. Plans

Pervez Musharraf's resignation could require a major revision of U.S. plans. Xenia Dormandy, director of the Belfer Center's Project on India and the Subcontinent at Harvard University, says the U.S. must meld its policy in a way that gains support within Pakistan.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Mr. Musharraf's resignation may have set off some cheering in the streets of Pakistan, but in Washington, D.C., there's some anxiety over what comes next. Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised Mr. Musharraf, calling him one of the world's most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism. For that, she said, he has our deep gratitude.

For more on what Pakistan without Musharraf may mean for relations with the U.S., we're joined by Xenia Dormandy, director of the Belfer Center's Project on India and the Subcontinent at Harvard University. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. XENIA DORMANDY (Belfer Center's Project on India and the Subcontinent, Harvard University): Not at all.

SIMON: Would you expect that a potential successor reasonably would be more or less sympathetic to U.S. foreign policy, or would they also have to do the kind of straddling Mr. Musharraf did?

Ms. DORMANDY: I think that there's a certain amount of straddling that needs to take place. We have to realize that Pakistan is a democratic country and the Pakistani people have their own interests.

So if you look at a couple of polls pre the election taken back in December, January, they showed the second-most important issue to Pakistanis was security, was stability, and yet they don't support the war on terror as we define it. And so it - the question here is how do we meld U.S. policy in a way that actually gains support within Pakistan? That's something that we've been trying to do for quite a while now, and that's something that the new leadership since February has been trying to do within Pakistan.

SIMON: And what do you see new leadership doing in the border areas? Because of course that porous border that we hear so much about has allowed militants to regroup. Yeah?

Ms. DORMANDY: They have exactly the same problems that President Musharraf had when he was in power. Insurgents, in terms of militants within that region, we've seen over the last couple of years the insurgents' safe haven, if you will, expand beyond the FATA, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, into the NWFP, the Northwest Frontier Province.

We've seen the government have less control of that region. Unfortunately, they really only have two tools to use. One is military, and one is hearts and minds. One is engaging with the people, providing them services. And what we've seen for the last few years, either under President Musharraf or under this new government, is essentially some form of those two tools being used either consecutively or simultaneously, if they can.

SIMON: There have been complaints in recent years and really have gotten quite sharp in recent months that elements of the Pakistani intelligence service has been acting in collusion with the Taliban and most recently certainly blamed them for the bombings that took place in Kabul. I wonder how you see this new government acting to rein in the Pakistani intelligence service or not.

Ms. DORMANDY: We did see some positive signs a couple of weeks ago, just prior to Prime Minister Gillani's trip to the U.S. He did actually make a decision to move the ISI, the intelligence services, underneath the interior ministry rather than the defense ministry. Unfortunately, within 24 hours he had to move it back to being underneath the defense ministry because there were so many complaints.

So we have actually seen him make some attempts to bring civilian leadership above the ISI, which I think would be taken very positively by not just the U.S. government but many others. Unfortunately, there is so much power within the ISI that they've been unable to do it thus far.

SIMON: Does new leadership have clean hands on the matter in a way Mr. Musharraf didn't?

Ms. DORMANDY: No, I think that they have many of the same problems that President Musharraf did, the difference being President Musharraf, as chief of army staff, did actually have leadership over the defense ministry as well. And so, in some sense, you could argue that President Musharraf had more authority over the ISI than the current government does, and again, we've seen that insofar as the government has been unable to bring civilian leadership over the ISI, and that continues to be a problem as it was under President Musharraf.

SIMON: Xenia Dormandy, director of the Belfer Center's Project on India and the Subcontinent at Harvard, thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. DORMANDY: Thank you.

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Analysts Urge U.S. Policy Shift After Musharraf

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2005. i i

hide captionSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) meets in New York with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2005. After his resignation Aug. 18, 2008, Rice praised the former general as a friend to the United States.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2005.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (left) meets in New York with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in 2005. After his resignation Aug. 18, 2008, Rice praised the former general as a friend to the United States.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Pervez Musharraf's departure as president of Pakistan leaves the Bush administration without the man it once praised as an "indispensable" partner in the war against terrorism. Many analysts say it's time the U.S. adopts a Pakistan policy that's geared to the country and not to a single leader.

After the resignation, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the former general as a friend to the United States, and she credited Musharraf with making "the critical choice to join the fight against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist groups." But before her statement even mentioned Musharraf, Rice was careful to express strong support for the civilian government that pushed him out.

"The United States supported the transition to democratic government in Pakistan," Rice said, an implicit acknowledgement that the government under Musharraf was not democratic, although it had staunch U.S. support ever since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

The Bush administration continued to support Musharraf after elections in February saw the effective loss of his political power to an opposition coalition led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto.

The decision to focus the relationship between the two countries on the personality of one man was a mistake, says Teresita Schaffer, who directs the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The U.S. made itself controversial in Pakistan, Schaffer told NPR, "partly because the U.S. stayed in visible support of Musharraf even after it became clear that the voters had rejected him."

Undoing The Damage

Selig Harrison, head of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy, says Musharraf's departure presents an opportunity for the U.S. to undo some of the damage caused by its relationship with the former general.

Musharraf played the U.S. "like a fiddle," Harrison says. For one thing, he says, the Pakistani leader never removed elements from his intelligence services that were working against the effort to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida.

When Musharraf did cooperate with the U.S., Harrison says, he often made the situation in Pakistan worse, as when he ordered his intelligence services to cooperate with the CIA in the "rendition" of terrorist suspects. Such actions, Harrison says, stirred widespread anger among the Pakistani population and helped trigger a wave of anti-Americanism.

Harrison says Musharraf's resignation should allow the U.S. to let that anti-Americanism die down and to "shut up and do absolutely nothing but respond to initiatives from the new government."

U.S. Candidates React

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a statement saying that Musharraf made the right decision to step down. It reiterated his position that "the central terrorist threat to the United States lies in northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, and not Iraq." The Illinois senator also claimed credit for saying a year ago that the U.S. should move from a "Musharraf policy" to a "Pakistan policy."

Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, called Musharraf's resignation "a step toward moving Pakistan onto a more stable political footing." McCain expressed the hope that elections for Musharraf's successor "will serve to reconcile the Pakistani people behind a leader who can solidify their government internally."

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