STEVE INSKEEP, host:
With Musharraf's departure, the Bush administration lost the focus of its policy in Pakistan. The U.S. relied heavily on Pervez Musharraf in the years after the 9/11 attacks. And critics say the U.S. relied on him too much. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.
MICHELE KELEMEN: Last November, as Musharraf was imposing a state of emergency and lawyers were protesting in the streets, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told Congress the U.S. needs Pervez Musharraf.
Mr. JOHN NEGROPONTE (Deputy Secretary of State): President Musharraf has been an indispensable ally in the global war on terrorism.
KELEMEN: Yesterday, after Musharraf resigned to avoid an impeachment process, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said he had the administration's deep gratitude for making, as she put it, the critical choice to join the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban. But her spokesman, Robert Wood, suggested the U.S. is trying to move on.
Mr. ROBERT WOOD (State Department Spokesman): The war against extremism is bigger than any one person. What's important here is that we work with Pakistan to do what we can to root out these extremists and to prevent them from crossing the border into Afghanistan and carrying out attacks, and for attacking targets within Pakistan. I mean, this is a big fight, it's a long-term one, and it's much larger than any individual.
KELEMEN: Critics of the Bush administration's policy say that is a lesson that should have sunk in long ago. Teresita Schaffer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the U.S. did very little to promote its democracy agenda when it came to Pakistan and instead focused on President Bush's personal ties with Musharraf.
Ms. TERESITA SCHAFFER (Center for Strategic and International Studies): I think they were making a mistake to personalize the relationship so heavily. The reality in Pakistan is that any government is going to want to keep a decent relationship with the United States if possible. But at the same time, the U.S. has made itself very controversial, partly because it stayed in visible support of Musharraf, even after the election had pretty much rejected him.
KELEMEN: Even in the war on terrorism, there were some questions about how much of an ally he really was to the U.S. Bob Grenier was the CIA station chief in Pakistan when Musharraf came to power in a coup, and he later ran the CIA's counterterrorism center here in the U.S.
Mr. ROBERT GRENIER (Former CIA Station Chief): It's interesting, you know, how quickly we've turned nostalgic now in looking back over the Musharraf period because the constant refrain during most of that time was he isn't doing enough.
KELEMEN: Grenier, now managing director of the risk consulting firm Kroll, says Musharraf was a strong ally in fighting al-Qaida but was far more ambiguous in dealing with the resurgent Taliban, responsible for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. He says the problem looking ahead is that the U.S. and the current Pakistani government have different priorities.
Mr. GRENIER: They're concerned with homegrown extremists, and right now they are trying to reestablish the writ of their own government in fairly extensive areas of territory where essentially they have lost all control. So that's going to be priority number one for them.
KELEMEN: Not, he says, stopping cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. Grenier says it will take time for the new Pakistani government to come up with a clear strategy. In the meantime, the CIA is likely to continue to strike suspected Taliban and al-Qaida targets in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution, reached by phone in Pakistan, doesn't see many other options for the U.S. at the moment.
Mr. STEPHEN COHEN (Brookings Institution): We provide Pakistan with over a billion dollars a year to in a sense look the other way as we sort of selectively attack targets in Pakistani territory. Because the Pakistanis themselves admit that they don't have control over their own territory. So while they can never admit that they'd allow a foreign government to operate in Pakistan, in a sense they close their eyes and hold their ears when these kinds of attacks do take place.
KELEMEN: Cohen said the Bush administration's policy toward Pakistan was bankrupt and America's image there has suffered for it.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
INSKEEP: Our coverage continues online at NPR.org, which is where NPR's Corey Flintoff explores the opportunity that Musharraf's departure provides the U.S.
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