updated 9/25/2006 6:41:38 PM ET 2006-09-25T22:41:38

Pakistan’s president says in his memoir released Monday that he had no choice after the Sept. 11 attacks but to switch from supporting the Taliban to backing the U.S.-led war on terror groups or face an American “onslaught.”

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in his book “In The Line of Fire,” also criticizes the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, saying it has made the world “more dangerous.”

Musharraf, who is on a tour of the U.S., is scheduled to meet Wednesday with President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai to seek ways to bridge their disagreements on the fight against Islamic militants, particularly along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier.

Unusual in publishing a memoir while still in power, Musharraf says Pakistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia created an extremist “monster” by supporting Islamic groups fighting the Soviet Union’s 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan.

“We had assisted in the rise of the Taliban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States,” Musharraf says.

It was within this vacuum that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terror network strengthened, thanks to the support of the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Omar, he adds.

Pakistan saw the Taliban as a means to end years of chaos in Afghanistan, which peaked during the 1992-96 civil war, says Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 coup. He says Islamabad also saw the Taliban as a counter to Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, which favored Pakistan’s rival, India.

U.S. like 'wounded bear'
But after the Sept. 11 attacks, Musharraf says, he realized continuing to support the Taliban and have ties with militant groups would set Pakistan on a collision course with Washington.

“America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear,” Musharraf writes. “If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaida, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us.”

The day after the suicide plane attacks, Musharraf says, Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned with an ultimatum: “You are either with us or against us.”

The next day, he says, Powell’s then deputy, Richard Armitage, telephoned the chief of Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, with an even sterner warning.

“In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage ... told the director general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age,” Musharraf writes.

Armitage last week denied threatening to bomb Pakistan, but acknowledged delivering a stern warning.

Musharraf says he weighed Pakistan’s options, including the possibility of militarily countering any U.S. actions.

“I war-gamed the United States as an adversary,” he writes, but concluded Pakistan’s military, economic and social weaknesses made it impossible to confront America.

Eyeing India
He also worried about nuclear-armed India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain, including two over the disputed Himalayan region of now divided Kashmir.

“The Indians might have been tempted to undertake a limited offensive there (Kashmir); or more likely they would work with the United States and the United Nations to turn the present situation into a permanent status quo,” Musharraf writes. “The United States would certainly have obliged.”

He adds: “It is no secret that the United States has never been comfortable with a Muslim country acquiring nuclear weapons and the Americans undoubtedly would have taken the opportunity of an invasion to destroy such weapons.”

Musharraf says he thus cut Pakistan’s support for the Taliban, despite a possible backlash from radical Islamic groups in his country.

“Why should we put our national interest on the line for a primitive regime that would be defeated?” he asks. “Self-interest and self-preservation were the basis of this decision.”

But Musharraf disputes Bush’s argument that the world is safer following the invasion of Iraq, saying he opposed the war because he “feared it would exacerbate extremism, as it has most certainly done. ... The world has become far more dangerous.”

Musharraf details some of the 670 arrests of al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan, including the killers of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl.

But he also concedes al-Qaida and Taliban militants still operate in his country, while repeating his insistence that he has no knowledge of the whereabouts of top fugitives, including bin Laden and Omar.

“If I had to guess, I would assume that he (bin Laden) is moving back and forth across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border somewhere,” Musharraf writes.

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