Is it time to withdraw US troops from Pakistan?
The Qaeda network accused by Pakistan’s government of killing the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is increasingly made up not of foreign fighters but of homegrown Pakistani militants bent on destabilizing the country, analysts and security officials here say.I don't trust Sharif who is tied to closely with the Islamist religious bigots who are the problem. With no US troops in the country to blame, the NY Times and the Democrat left will have to call for the withdrawal of Pakistan troops from Pakistan to halt the violence. If that sounds silly, it is because that is their prescription for stopping the violence in Iraq. It is a good thing we did not follow that advice.
But this year they have very clearly expanded their ranks and turned to a direct confrontation with the Pakistani security forces while also aiming at political figures like Ms. Bhutto, the former prime minister who died when a suicide bomb exploded as she left a political rally on Thursday.
According to American officials in Washington, an already steady stream of threat reports spiked in recent months. Many concerned possible plots to kill prominent Pakistani leaders, including Ms. Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, another opposition leader.
“Al Qaeda right now seems to have turned its face toward Pakistan and attacks on the Pakistani government and Pakistani people,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters in Washington on Dec. 21.
The expansion of Pakistan’s own militants, with their fortified links to Al Qaeda, presents a deeply troubling development for the Bush administration and its efforts to stabilize this volatile nuclear-armed country.
It is also one that many in Pakistan have been loath to admit, but that Ms. Bhutto had begun to acknowledge in her many public statements about the greatest threat to her country being in religious extremism and terrorism.
Those warnings have now been borne out with her death and in the turmoil that has followed it and shaken Pakistan’s political fault lines. Rioting over the last two days has left at least 38 people dead and 53 injured, and cost millions of dollars of damage to businesses, vehicles and government buildings, according an Interior Ministry spokesman. Protesters have accused the government of failing to protect Ms. Bhutto, or even conspiring to kill her.
On Saturday, Mr. Sharif, now the country’s most prominent opposition figure, ventured to the political stronghold of his assassinated rival to lay a wreath on her grave, but also to make common cause against President Musharraf and the Bush administration’s support of him.