In the past few days, warnings about two critical threats from Pakistan have been sounded repeatedly in Washington. First, al-Qaida is rapidly growing stronger in the de facto sanctuary it enjoys in Pakistans northwestern tribal areas, and is close to acquiring the capability to launch new attacks on the United States. Second, reputable polls show that Pakistanis will vote overwhelmingly against President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections Monday - but the government plans to rig the balloting to prevent that outcome, at the risk of triggering massive protests and violence.
In short, thanks to Mr. Musharraf, the danger of another Sept. 11 is real, as is a violent and destabilizing confrontation between Pakistans army and the moderate democratic forces that ought to be joining it in the fight against al-Qaida. Yet the Bush administration continues to publicly insist that Mr. Musharraf is indispensable to Pakistan - a stubborn and illogical position that is serving only to heighten the twin dangers.
The administration itself is reporting the Pakistani threat against the U.S. homeland. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testified to Congress last week that al-Qaida was acquiring the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S., by bringing Western recruits to its Pakistani bases for training. It has been reported that Mr. McConnell and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden traveled to Pakistan last month to propose that U.S. intelligence and military personnel join Pakistanis in operations against al-Qaida - only to be rebuffed by Mr. Musharraf.
Similarly, appeals by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for Mr. Musharraf to permit fair elections have been ineffective. The former general has neither released the judges he imprisoned last fall nor removed controls that prevent media from fully reporting on the elections.
- Washington Post
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