updated 2/9/2004 2:04:51 PM ET 2004-02-09T19:04:51

The following is the full transcript of an interview by NBC News Producer Robert Windrem with Ambassador Robert Oakley who was US ambassador to Pakistan in the late 1980's and early 1990's.  He is currently Senior Research Fellow at the National Defense University and a frequent commentator on US Pakistani relations.

NBC/Robert Windrem: Ambassador Oakley, when you look at the challenges facing President Musharraf delineate what they are, and prioritize them for me.

Robert Oakley: Well, his first challenge from I think his perspective is to turn Pakistan into a modern, moderate, progressive model and state.  I think he really believes in that.  And he has been working towards that ever since he took power.  But how to get there?  And his first major opportunity in a sense came with 911.  It was a huge challenge and he could have gone one way or another and he chose to go with the future of Pakistan as he sees it.  And he saw it going with the United States as absolutely essential if he's going to get there.  Now he only went with as best as we can see, half-way but that was a huge, huge step and people wondered whether he would survive that politically or personally at the time.  He came through it, he didn't take any more giant steps until fairly recently when he felt he had to take more steps to reach out to India and begin to settle the problems over there. He realized that's a no win situation and furthermore, the longer the time went on the more Pakistan was losing if not necessarily in terms of the insurgence in Kashmir but in terms of its economic development and social development. Where was it going in the world as India was going ahead, Pakistan seems to be going backwards.  I think he realized that and began to quietly reach out to the Indians who in due time realized they could trust Musharraf or at least felt that they could take a bet on him, having totally distrusted him before that. 
Then on the other side he's got Afghanistan where he has been trying to work with the United States again being careful.  Where he has the domestic problem that will get...which is huge in terms of working with the U.S. in terms of dealing with the Afghan situation but nevertheless increasing cooperative dealing with the Afghan situation beyond al-Qaida.  But going beyond that, to stabilize Afghanistan to help it become a peaceful state could be facilitative to Pakistan in terms of its commerce with central Asia which they have always had in mind.  And no longer a threat to the rear Pakistan but then all these things tie in to the domestic Islamic movements some of which are very, very radical as Musharraf said Davos are the extremists which are their real enemies which began to build up their power during the Zeal hawk period.  During the period when we were using them, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as our cutouts in fighting the Soviets in fighting the Mujahedeen resistance in Afghanistan.  They became strong then; they become much stronger during the period when we were away in the 1990s.  They became much stronger, much more Jihadist if you will. The influence of Al-Qaeda kicked in.  Al-Qaeda is working the Kashmir connection by working through these Islamic groups to support the insurgency in Kashmir but at the same time they are working with them in Afghanistan and they are working with them domestically in Pakistan.  So now Al-Qaeda has issued a fatwa against Musharraf himself.  And you find suicide bombers rested against Musharraf you also find the same sort of threat against President Karzai in Kabul and against the Karzai regime just like you have the threat of the regime in Islamabad, so it all begins to come together.  The United States is working on all these sides; they're working with Musharraf to help him domestically.  We're working with Musharraf to help bring about a rapprochement with India.  We're helping to certainly help Musharraf deal with the Afghan problem.  So we're in the middle of all these things in different ways trying to help Pakistan move in the right direction.

NBC: Now isn't his greatest challenge based, on what we've seen on December 14 and December 25, staying alive?  I mean without him none of this seems to go anywhere.

RO: He, providing the leadership, and certainly he's an individual who has turned out to be much stronger and much more visionary and I would say much more clever than people have given him credit for.  But, its not totally a cult of personality.  I think the people around him are very, very loyal to him and I suspect they are very loyal to his vision even though they won't be as powerful in terms of carrying it off if something were to happen to him

NBC: One would assume that not everyone around him is loyal or you wouldn't have had what you had on Dec. 14 and Dec. 25, what appears to be inside jobs, attempts to assassinate him.

RO: Attempts to assassinate him, not sure its necessarily an inside job.  We've had attempts, sometimes successful, to assassinate U.S. presidents, U.S. people that haven't been inside jobs.

NBC: But we've had, these were on supposedly secure routes not many people knew where he was going.  There does appear to be some breach of security.

RO: I’m sure there is but at what level? I’m saying the senior people around him I think that are loyal, are quite sharp.   It doesn't mean that there haven't been security problems but I’m just saying that I don't' believe that at the moment the top leadership is disloyal to Musharraf.  They would change course even though they wouldn't be as dynamic in pursuing the same course if something were to happen to him.

NBC: Now I think it was in October when Zawahiri issued the fatwa saying that the people of Pakistan should rise up and eliminate him.  I don't think they used the word killed or assassinate, but I believe the word was eliminate.  Do you see a direct linkage between that particular pronouncement by the Zawahiri and the attacks of December?

RO: Well, as you suggest there has been increasing unhappiness with Musharraf because of the Indian side and because of the afghan side and also because he is pursuing domestic reform and cutting the Islamist groups down to size slowly, slowly, carefully.  There's going to be a lot faster now and a lot more brutal, I suspect particularly with the extremist groups as he's pointed out they've declared war on him and he's paid them back in kind.  But, whether this particular fatwa trigged the assassination attempts I don't know.  But it's interesting is that you're getting something that you haven't had too much of before, that is suicide bombings both in Kabul and in Islamabad, and the Al-Qaeda links are visible I think and probably Al-Qaeda assistance in both cases. 

NBC: When you look at Musharraf the man, what kind of character has he turned out to be?  Has he been a big surprise?

RO: Yeah, I think it is a surprise but he's been remarkably consistent if you look at the things he's said, the things he's done.  For example, economic reform.  He put in some economic reformers when he took power.  The minister of finance, head of the central bank, and they put in a very vigorous and far-reaching economic reform program that is still going on.  Again it got a boost from international assistance after 9/11 but it was going on before that and that IMF said for the first time a Pakistan government has actually completed a program with us and therefore we're going to give them a lot of credit for that.  These things are going and he's talked about social reform, and they're actually spending money on things like education and health which they never did before.  Of course the economic reform has given them more money to spend.  They're yet to get through investment but they see this agreement with India, particularly on the free trade side, as giving them a peace dividend.  And that's what the government of the central bank said last week, I’m delighted about this free trade agreement, its going to give us all a big boost, India as well as Pakistan, a sort of peace dividend.  People are going to be ready to invest and we're going to be able to trade back and forth which will leverage all of our economies.  We'll begin to move along in the wake of India and become more prosperous ourselves.  I think there are a lot of things going on that people don't really understand.  For example, one of the constitutional amendments that Musharraf put through that was officially ratified a year ago, was to give women about one quarter of the seats in the national assembly reserved for women.  No elected person could have done that in Pakistan. In fact Ms. Bhutto declined to do it.  'It’s too dangerous politically for me to stand up for women and reserve seats in the parliament'.  A lot of things of this sort that people have not recognized about Musharraf that had been there.  At the same time, he's tough militarily and until recently had been particularly tough on the issue of Kashmir.

NBC: How would you describe him forgetting his achievements and his risks, because a lot of what you are talking about are his risks?  I mean he's a very big risk taker, obviously.  Describe for me what his character is.  A concise profile of him would be what?

RO: I’d say he's a simple man, he's a family man.  He's certainly no extremist as he would put it.  He's been known to take a drink now and then even though he is a good Muslim.  He's more thoughtful than people give him credit for. I just think he's a fascinating man.  I can't really go to far in describing him.  I don't know him well.  I’ve met him on a number of occasions, but I don't know him well so I wouldn't pretend to give you a precise description of Musharraf.

NBC: Risk taker?  Courageous?  Bold?

RO: Yes, but at the same time careful, because he wasn't taking undue risk.  I remember this period where he was not willing to tackle Al-Qaeda and the Taliban up until September 11, then he did but he only went a certain distance.  People were complaining saying that 'well you haven't gone really far'.  He said 'well people didn't think I’d survive the first move against them we'll see when the time goes if we can make another move'.  And the time has come and he's taking another risk with India this time.

NBC: Talk to me about that.  This is something that is really unprecedented.  And what about it is unprecedented...a number of things about that are unprecedented that give you more hope that this is for real as opposed to any number of summits and surprise meetings etc. that have been going on for years.

RO: Well, first is a thing that gives me the greatest hope is to listen to the things that Indians at very, very senior levels have to say about it.  They are convinced this is for real in the past they have been willing to take a gamble.  They think that this time is not so much of a gamble, but more of a sure thing, although its never 100% certain.  The Indian foreign minister came back from the Pakistan SAARC summit saying I think there is very strong popular support in Pakistan for this opening to India including in the army as well as the politicians.  The Islamist groups in the national assembly have come out in support of it.  And Musharraf himself of course, the architect, who Kargill ... which is a move against the Indians which created huge amounts of distrust on the Indian side and resulted in inability to carry us through previous peace openings.  Musharraf is the guy who is taking the risks this time.  He's the one who has reciprocated the Indian move and said okay you stick out your hand and I’ll stick mine out.  But they've been very careful in how they've done it this time.  They haven't tried to do a lot of bold things in a hurry, they've tried to do quiet things in private and facilitate communications taking things one step at a time.  Saying can I trust you on this, can I trust you on that.  Which is exactly how one ought to proceed?  And its worked and they've had secret contact obviously going on for months and then you take a move you open the way for buses.  You open the way for trains.  You open the way for airplanes.  All these things, but let's remember 18 months ago India had a million troops mobilized and we thought there was going to be nuclear war.  So, in some ways they've moved very, very fast and very, very far.

NBC: The threat of nuclear war between India and Pakistan has always been viewed through a different prism on either side and by the U.S.  With some people believing that its got a low probability and others believing it has a high probability. And you have 86 and 89 and you have 99.  You have a number of years a number of crisis’s that whether it's brass tax or whether its what happened in 89 I guess it was, and then Kargill.  What is your assessment of how real, prior to this peace, and also possibly after if this thing fails, what are the  possibilities of nuclear war if there is a crisis between India and Pakistan.

RO: I’ve always thought prior to, I would say the middle 1990s either India or Pakistan had readily available nuclear weapons.  They had the capability but I don't think they actually had available nuclear weapons.  That only came after they tested of course that was in 1998.  But, I’ve never believed that it was as lively a possibility as others have, because I’ve always felt they've had a way of communicating so they would step back from the brink.  A way of communicating that may have been non-verbal for that matter, because the last time they had a war was 1971 and ever since then there have been a lot of close scares but they have always found a way to back away from it.  On the other hand, in 2002, they really were loaded and cocked on the Indian side because they felt that the attack on the Indian parliament and then the attack upon the Indian housing compound in Kashmir in June 2002 were just absolutely intolerable.  They blamed them upon Pakistan, rightly or wrongly, and they were really mobilized as a tremendous impetus about doing something against Pakistan.  At the final moment cooler heads prevailed and said what would we do and where would it get us by the time its all over. Pakistanis on their side were mobilized but both sides with the help of the United States quietly managed to find a way to back down as they had in the past.  But this time, the United States, at least, was very worried, the administration was very worried that there might be a nuclear war because it would start with limited war and neither side would be able to control it. Now they claimed that they could control it.  But on the other hand they weren't as quite as certain as they said they were.  That was a close call I’d say in 2002.  The other times I say not as close a call.

NBC: 89 was fairly close.

RO: 1990? 

NBC: 1990, excuse me.  I mean when Gates came ...

RO: I was there as the ambassador.  By the time Gates got there the questions were already receding as a matter of fact.  The U.S., China, and Russia had weighed in with both countries independently to say to both of them, back off this is madness, don't do this.  And they had found a way to communicate with each other and Gates put the icing on the cake if you will.  I think frequently intervention by the outside gives Indian and Pakistan the cover they need to do the things they had already decided to do.  Which is to back off, rather than go to war.

NBC: The current crisis over nuclear issues regards no longer the possibility but the accepted wisdom that the Pakistanis have provided at the least North Korea, Iran, and Libya with significant nuclear technology, the uranium enrichment technology.  And I’ve been told over the last couple of days that the list may not stop there.   There may be others or other... and this is going to come out now because of Libya's opening up of it's program.  Two questions, Musharraf seems to be saying this is a terrible, terrible thing we're going to prosecute this but I had no idea whatsoever that this is going on.  Is this credible?

RO: Well, I believe most of this occurred before Musharraf took power.  I think that Musharraf recognized the dangers of AQ Khan free wheeling.  I’m not sure how much Musharraf knew about before he became president, I’m not sure how much he knew about it subsequently, although I would gather that subsequent him becoming president he did know.  He took steps to curb AQ Khan.  But most of this took place before I would suspect that mush knew something about it whether he knew all the details or not, I don't know.  But AQ Khan was given tremendous liberties.  He was such a huge national hero.  I mean AQ Khan made people believe that he developed the missiles, the Ghauri missiles, which in fact was the Korean Nodong obtained in exchange for nuclear secrets and guidance and technology.  But he gave himself out to be the father of the missile.  Which people believed. That shows how towering a figure he's been.  He brought them the bomb which protected them against India.  Which is reverse of when you think about the United States and the Soviet Union?  So, he had tremendous amounts of political power. 
And on the research and development side, he was able to do a lot of things he wanted to do, without much in the way of controls.  Once Zeo Hop died there was unclear as to who was in control, the president? The prime minister? The chief of the army staff?  Who's controlling the nuclear program?  But by late 1990s even before Musharraf took over, the military had brought their side of the program under control.  In other words the actual nuclear weapons were controlled, and I don't think there was much likelihood of leakage there, but on the research and development side with AQ Khan as scientist, they had a tremendous rolodex.   And remember how the program came together.  AQ Khan went to  what, 15 different countries and picked up different pieces of equipment and put it together and produced nuclear weapons.  Well, his knowledge isn't just what Pakistan has, but this network all around the world where do you go? Who do you go to?  What do you need? And how do you get it? It’s must more intellectual property than it is physical material goods, and that is very, very hard to control.  And so this network I’m sure is huge. And it's this middleman network that's even more important perhaps than things that come from Pakistan and go to country X and country Y.  But this has been going on, the United States has been concerned about it, particularly the Korean angle since the late 1990s but we weren't able to get very far with the Pakistanis we didn't have as much hard intelligence as we would have liked to have on that... and we didn't pay enough attention to the Iranian side, although we should because when I was there the chief of the army staff made no secret of his desire to have a strategic relationship with Iran.

NBC: Strategic depth?

RO: Strategic depth.  Its going to be Iran and Pakistan picking up the pieces after the United States failed in the gulf against Iraq.

NBC: On the other hand, the motivation behind what AQ Khan and the others in his coterie and cahuda and anywhere else.  There are those that believe that it was purely monetary and yet I’m being told by people who are knowledgeable about the program, as someone said to me, 'I’m not going to dismiss money as an impetus for this, everybody likes to make money, and its nice to make money doing something'.  But there is also an Islamic nationalist angle to what he is doing and that he believes in that.

RO: Well, General Begs recent discussions point to that.  it's not AQ Khan speaking, but I think it is in the same angle.  it is nationalist, the greater glory of Pakistan.  it's Islamist, I think that's quite true.  And its personal, ego the man who thinks of himself as a towering figure.  So it's all those things plus money.  I think its all of them together. and as time went on his ego became bigger and bigger.

NBC: Someone described to me what was going on as AQ Khan's desire for a nuclear armed, Islamic, federation to counter the U.S. hegemony, which is probably a bad television word, but the U.S. hegemony in that corner of the world.  Would you agree?

RO: That certainly sounds like the things General Begs has been saying.  Whether AQ Khan has thought that or not, I really don't know, he might have.  But that puts him very much in partnership with Al Qaeda and Mullah Omar.  Right on the Taliban side with Osama Bin Laden who had this idea that the new Islamic jihad movement, maybe they were soul mates but, I’m not aware that it was a very close connection between the two of them.  But I think that a lot of people who think that way had overcome humiliation what do we have to have. Just like the north Koreans are saying to overcome the fear of the Americans, what do we have to have?

NBC: Is the idea of an Islamic bomb something that is just ignored, or is this something that AQ Khan, General Begs and others really look at and say 'this should be our goal, this should be what we're about'?

RO: I think there is a lot fantasy and a lot of dreaming in that, on the other hand they probably have it as a dream.  But as we've seen, in certain cases it translates into something very tangible and specific, on the other hand it is not something that is that widespread.  You had Iran which is a very particular case in the late 1980s 1990s so far as Pakistan was concerned.  Later on Iran got so scared of the Taliban and Pakistan's support of Al-Qaeda that they turned to India and began to work together against Pakistan.  so, you have different relations at different times.  There isn't Islamic solidarity in the real world.  it may be a dream of some kind but I think its more a dream but there may become specific instances where Islamic angle does play in.

NBC: And Libya, is that something you look at and say wait a minute this is, is this a money angle or is this because Libya has the credentials the Islamic credentials of fighting the United States as the lone, one of the lone northern African nations to challenge the United States.  what's the impetus, the motivation behind dealing with Libya.

RO: Libyans have been helping the Pakistanis I gather for a long, long time.  but I don't think Libya is the champion of Islam, certainly not in recent years, that just doesn't hold water, that's probably a commercial operation.  Furthermore, as I say, the question is, how much has come from Pakistan and how much has come from this sort of international network of suppliers.  And AQ Khan's rolodex is the most important thing he's got.

NBC: And knowledge of how.

RO: What do you need to put together a program, and where can you go to go to get it. 

NBC: But systems integration is something that he has done extremely well.  Not just procurement but once he's got it in house.

RO: That's right, you have to teach them how to do it as well as where to get it.  And where you put it together after you've gotten it.  That's right.

NBC: That's essentially what his real skill was.  After the procurement was putting together the cascades.  Putting together this huge industrial capability.  And that's what makes him so important.  is there a chance that Musharraf is really going to go after AQ Khan?  I mean AQ Khan is almost a symbol of modern Pakistan, so much more so than Musharraf is.

RO: Of course, he's a towering figure.  We had heroes that helped develop our bomb.  We had Rickover he was a hero for the navy.  indeed he's a towering figure.  That's why he's treated carefully but the first thing Musharraf did was move him out of his official position.  Again his combination of risk-taking and caution on the part of Musharraf.  Now he's put him under house arrest.  But he's handling him very, very carefully.  My guess is from what we've seen and what we know of the political situation, he'll take his time.  And if he takes action against AQ Khan, it will be on the basis of corruption.  After all, Musharraf from the very beginning, because he believes it has stood very strongly against corruption and he has a good reputation in Pakistan as being anti corrupt.  there has been so much corruption in Pakistan, particularly in political circles this has made him very, very popular.  this has been a way to deal with AQ Khan, if in fact they can prove illicit gains of various kinds in a personal benefit. That's the  way to go about it rather than charging him for treason in terms of selling secrets.

NBC: AQ Khan's contemporary in India, Abdul Kalam is now the president of India.  is there enough of a constituency for AQ Khan in Pakistan that he could be a threat, even if he is under house arrest, that he could be a threat to Musharraf.

RO: I don't think so.  I think the army is so powerful as it has been throughout Pakistan's history and I think the army and Musharraf are significantly popular.  And I think he has sufficient backing from Islamic parties that the civilian, secular politicians who were opposed to things like his opening to India, for their own reasons if you will, will not go along with AQ Khan.  But, yes, AQ Khan accentuates the threat from the extremists that Musharraf is obviously at war with.

NBC: Musharraf has been the subject of two assassination attempts in the last two months.

RO: And more before that

NBC: And more before that. Some of which we know about, some of which we don't.  is he stronger now than he was when he took over.  Or is there a trough where is he in terms of gathering strength or losing it.

RO: I think that the army at the leadership level and down towards the middle level are extremely loyal to Musharraf.  Below that there may be dissatisfaction.  Even subversion of various kind.  But I think that at the top, leadership is very, very strong.  I think that he's made some political deals here.  maybe he's made political deals with the Muslims.  We don't like that too much, on the other hand they do have a lot of power in Pakistan.  its better to inoculate yourself with moderate Islam than to have all of Islam against you in the extremist camp.  so I think he's turning out to be a smoother politician than some people perhaps had given him credit for.  I personally would like it if he were to open up more to the secular politicians but I think that's less important in a strange way.

NBC: And what he's doing now does not preclude that.

RO: No, it doesn't at all.

NBC: The United States has begun to help Pakistan on a number of very sensitive issues.  Helping with Musharraf's personal security.  Even subsequent to the December assassination attempts. and also with nuclear weapon security.  meetings between General Kidwai and the U.S. officials, over I guess going back to October 2001.  How much of an investment are we making to this and is this, and how important is it for us to be doing this.  I' mean particularly with the nuclear security.

RO: I think it's extremely important.  The alternative, and I think the Indians have realized this also, there have been times when they've been tempted to say let's just dismember Pakistan or help Pakistan come apart.  But then they sit back and think my goodness do we want to have Afghanistan, during the Taliban Al-Qaeda period, right next to us with nuclear weapons?  How dangerous would that be?  Not just the thought that a radical regime might acquire nuclear weapons, but a radical regime who already has nuclear weapons plus ballistic missiles, and what a threat that would be to the entire region as well as to the United States.  I think there's good reason to want to help Musharraf.  I think the greatest help we could provide him in addition to working on these sensitive areas, is to get the economy moving.  He's laid a basis for that but it needs more of a boost.  And maybe we could do something there which I think would be very, very welcome.

NBC: Do you think the Indians seeing that the U.S. may be trying to improve the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons in terms of authorization codes and in terms of physical security are going to look at this and say wait a minute this is just too much.  Essentially, the U.S. is helping the Pakistani nuclear weapons program.  because if you improve authorization codes for security purposes and the physical security, you're also improving their capability and readiness.

RO: On the other hand we're also encouraging the Indians to follow the Pakistani track. in this particular area the Indians are probably behind Pakistan in terms of security for their nuclear weapons, they need to catch up.  But if you look at what we're doing with India we're saying, hey when you begin to catch up we're going to be giving you a lot more cooperation both in terms of technology, which you've always wanted, and even in terms of going out to space.  So I think India feels that they are great beneficiaries from the cooperation of the United States.  So I think they feel sufficiently trusting of us now when they didn't in the past.  They think this is probably a plus for them rather than a minus.  I think the whole thing is coming into focus and we've used our relationship with both countries which have never been as good as they are now to good avail encouraging them to begin to trust each other to begin to talk to each other.  as well as to work with us. I think it is a plus for all three at the moment and I think it will continue to be that way.

NBC: So you're very optimistic then, aren't you?

RO: Well I would watch the Kidwai thing he's been working very quietly, very slowly with us.  But that's why the president of the United States can speak with some confidence about the military side of the nuclear program and the fact that it is under control.  And the chances of leakage are very, very slim and the chances of accidents are very slim.  Whereas before, the chances of leakage or accident were greater than when they begin to work with us.  Now we're not fully satisfied and they're suspicious of us still.  But less suspicious than they were right after September the 11th when they felt we might come sweeping in to seize their nuclear weapons which would have produced a holocaust because we never would have gotten them.  so I think that slowly, slowly there are points of contention.  A lot of points of contention when it comes to things like missile defense or a-wax.  The Pakistanis are very suspicious of India.  they're suspicious of the United States.  they're suspicious of Israel who they see as acting with U.S. permission.  in these areas that they think might nullify their defensive capability against India.  On the other hand, the net balance so far is pretty positive.

NBC: And overall you're pretty optimistic.

RO: For the moment I am because of the things that have happened in the past six weeks as you've suggested, have been really unprecedented.  but both sides for the moment seem to be comfortable with them, seem to be working slowly, carefully.  not going out so far that they're going to be too fragile and tumble down from their own weight.  Testing as they move.  inspiring confidence on both sides, something that is brand new and taking some public positions with respect to saying, alright we'll talk about Kashmir with no preconditions.  We'll demand that all infiltration stop.  That comes from the Indians from the Pakistanis saying okay we'll talk about a range of issues, we don't insist that Kashmir come first.  We're willing to have trade relations with India.  We're willing to have travel and things of this kind.  We're not insistent on set positions and we're not any longer insisting on the plebiscite.  A lot of moderation in here steps that have been taking to modulate and moderate the relationship which we hadn't seen before.  so I’m optimistic so far as it goes if they continue to move at this pace slowly and carefully.  and the Musharraf regime survives which I think it will, and we can control the situation in Afghanistan, which I think increasingly it will begin to fall into shape too. And I hope that people take a careful look at that because that's going better, I think.  and US, Pakistani, afghani cooperation are also going better and dealing with the problems along the border.  its not perfect but its going better than it has before.  so I think in all these areas there's reason for optimism, but on the other hand it's also very dangerous.

NBC: We talked earlier about Dawood Ibrahim the man who is the mastermind of the 1993 Bombay bombings which killed 260 people and maybe even set up a precedent or a model for multiple simultaneous attacks.  But the U.S. just decided within the last two months to put Dawood Ibrahim on the terrorist list as a special designated national.  And this would appear to be part of our low-key attempt to make everybody in south Asia happy.  I mean this something obviously that makes the Indians happy.  that aside for a second, in the fact sheet that they've put out, the Treasury Department noted that Dawood Ibraham's criminal network, he being a drug dealer, has been used, is being used by Al Qaeda due to an agreement a specific agreement between the two of them to permit Al Qaeda to use the network for financing, moving money, moving materials, logistics in general.  that didn't surprise you, why?

RO: My experience from dealing with terrorist movements around the world is that they frequently work together for mutual benefit.  I know when I was a younger officer in Beirut, I was interested to find that the Japanese Red Army had people turning up in refugee camps in Lebanon for goodness sake.  The red army faction had people in Lebanon, other words these terrorist organizations frequently work with each other and the same thing is true in South America where you have the terrorists and the narcs working together.  in this sort of symbiotic relationship, why not share?  I’ll do something for you, you do something for me.  in some cases its ideological, but usually it's a question of naked self-interest on both sides and why should one be surprised if they work together?

NBC: And so Al Qaeda  has been using some of the drug routes?

RO: Oh I think Al Qaeda and Taliban during the period in which Al Qaeda was strong in Afghanistan, was getting a lot of their financing from smuggled opium and opium base and heroine coming out of Afghanistan.  it's not just Arab money, there's a lot of drug money involved with Al Qaeda too.

NBC: I think we're done unless there's something else you want to say.

RO: Well, no.  the one thing I hope you talked to Downing about is this whole... the current spade of rumors that the United States is going to send a huge military force into the tribal areas.  it won't work.  And Downing knew that.  He helped curb the initial impulse of the United States to go tromping into the tribal areas.  When he was over at the White House the two of us used to talk about this and Wayne don't let them do that.  We don't want to be there directly, we want to be there in a low key way helping them.  But they know the people.  They know the terrain.  They know the psychology. if anybody can get them or get him or get the other Al Qaeda, they can. if we go in there it would be counter productive if we do it the regular U.S. way.  in the first place, we wouldn't understand it, and in the second place we would produce a backlash.  But what I think is happening is that they're picking up the reports that there is going to be a big buildup because we're going to have a big action against Al-Qaeda and to some degree the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban hardcore in the spring.  There's no question about that, inside Afghanistan.  And I would be confident that the Pakistanis on their side are going to step it up too.  And there's going to be more U.S. help, but there's always been a lot of help going into Pakistan.  And there's going to be more coordination, but that's getting better all the time. so I think its going to come. 
I think that Musharraf is going to make a greater effort he'll allow more things to happen than he has in the past because he feels more a threat.  but I think politically the constitution in subsequent changes in the power balance between the Tajiks in the Karzai sort of government and the push to is going to make it easier for everybody.  the Taliban is going to begin to wither, there is going to be some reconciliation with lower level Taliban.  the Taliban represents the push to and they're the only ones that can because the Tajiks are still in charge in Kabul and beginning to go away because the balance of power within the country is beginning to shift.  The push to are feeling better about themselves, you see.  And the Tajiks including Defense Minster Fahim are beginning to lose a little bit of their power.  so that's a little bit subtle, but that's going to help a lot, it helps with Pakistan.  and part of their problem has been looking at Kabul and saying the Tajiks are still in charge and we can't accept that.  and the last time we supported the Taliban in getting the Tajiks out of Kabul on behalf of the push to.  And that's the line that the Taliban has been using this time, saying look the Americans have put the Tajiks in Kabul, they're not making a move to get them out.  They're as powerful as they ever were.  But now that's changing.  and that's going to help with Pakistan as well as with the push to.  so we're getting a lot of subtle things as well as all the military stuff. 
On the military side, one thing you'll find out there is that we have totally shifted our strategy and tactics. Before it was go out and chase the bandits, now its secure areas and stay there.  Deprive them of their lines of communication.  Deprive them of their basis of supply.  Don't go someplace, have a firefight and leave in which case the population is back at the mercy.  it's a whole different approach and its also hooked to reconstruction now.  The US military is going to provide security for reconstruction rather than merely just chasing the bandits.  So that's a big change so far as the United States is concerned. Before we thought we were only there to fight the Taliban.  We weren't interested in nation building.  Now our military is beginning to understand that they have to be playing a role in nation building. it's a big change.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments