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WORLD FOCUS: Pakistan: friend or foe?

May 27, 2011
A recent front page story in a Virginia newspaper indicated that training for the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden may have taken place at Camp Peary, the CIA training base located in Williamsburg. There is good reason to believe, it was this CIA training base that was utilized, just as it was in 1980, when members of the team selected to rescue the American hostages held at the U. S. Embassy in Tehran, trained there.

There are, however, other connections between Williamsburg and Pakistan, a country that have ostensibly served as a host to Osama bin Laden.

In 2005, Jehangir Karamat, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United States, was the guest speaker at the Global Forum sponsored by the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William & Mary.

Karamat’s position as a top diplomat was enhanced by the fact that he was a retired general in the Pakistani armed forces, who served as chairman of that country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was also a member of the inner circle around Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was instrumental in reversing Pakistan’s support of the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan and sheltered Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

With military bluntness, Karamat explained why under Gen. Musharraf’s leadership Pakistan turned against the Taliban and sided with the United States.

“After 9/11 Pakistan had to take a strategic decision and choose to align itself with the United States. After decades of political and economic stagnation, the Pakistani government under Gen. Musharraf concluded that the highest priority must be assigned to promoting economic progress. We shifted away from military-centric national strategy,” he said.

Significantly, it was under the probing of Wendy Chamberlin, U. S. Ambassador to Pakistan, that Gen. Musharraf changed course. While participating in a speaker’s forum at William & Mary she recalled her encounter with General Musharraf.

Chamberlin arrived in Islamabad on Aug. 13. 2001. a month before 9/11. She was determined to open a new page in the rocky relationship between the U. S. and Pakistan.

“Shortly after my arrival, I had dinner with Gen. Musharraf ,” she recalled. “We were very open with each other. President Musharraf wanted economic development for his country. And he indicated his unhappiness with the Taliban. I urged him to change direction. But because U. S. aid was cut off, we had very little leverage on Pakistan.”

She developed a close relationship with Musharraf and just two days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, she was in a position to ask, “Are you with us or against us?”

Chamberlin emphasized that the decision Gen. Musharraf has made and the changes he has instituted have been in Pakistan’s interest. But apparently neither she or Amb. Kamarat, anticipated that Pakistan’s directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the much feared and shadowy agency, would engage in double-dealing in fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Documents on the Wikileaks website question ISI’s loyalties, and most observers don’t believe the ISI didn’t know about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The question remains the same as it was in 2011: Is Pakistan a friend or a foe?

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, “A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan is considered vital to U. S. interest. United States concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; Afghan stability; democratization and human rights protection; the ongoing Kashmir problem; Pakistan-India tensions; and economic development.”

Pakistan is among the world’s leading recipients of U. S. aid. It has obtained almost $5.5 billion in economic assistance since 2001 and almost $7 billion in military reimbursement for its support of counterterrorism efforts.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in spite of the revelations about Osama bin Laden’s sanctuary in Pakistan, pledged continued U. S. partnership with Pakistan. How fruitful it would be, remains to be seen.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.


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