ISLAMABAD, Oct 26 (NNI):
Pakistan’s military president
said today that a "political strategy" for Afghanistan was urgently needed
to prevent "anarchy and atrocity" if the country’s Islamic Taliban
movement falls to U.S.-led military attacks.
While saying Pakistan will "go along" with the military campaign "until
its objectives are achieved," Gen. Pervez Musharraf made clear that he was
concerned about the ever-lengthening time frame of the attacks, and about
the chaos and bloodshed that could follow if no cohesive political force
was ready to take over.
"We are part of the coalition, and we will go along until the objectives
are achieved," Musharraf told about a dozen foreign journalists in his
office. He said he has not "set any limits" on Pakistan’s cooperation, but
that "military action must be brought to an end as soon as possible."
If the campaign is "unable to achieve its military goals in a certain
time, we need to switch to a political strategy," he said
Musharraf's comments came as U.S. officials are acknowledging how
difficult it will be to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the Saudi
terrorist suspect who is a prime target of the military bombing, and that
the Taliban is proving to be a surprisingly stubborn military adversary
that may take months to defeat.
Public opinion in Pakistan has been increasingly critical of the bombings,
which have reportedly killed several hundred civilians without resulting
in the death, capture or defection of any Taliban leaders. Radical Islamic
groups in Pakistan have held numerous anti-U.S. protests and vowed to send
fighters to support the Taliban.
Musharraf's remarks also coincided with a series of disappointments in
efforts by Afghan political leaders, Pakistani agencies and international
forces to cobble together a broad-based future government for Afghanistan,
whose recent history has been plagued by bloody feuds among political,
religious and ethnic factions backed by various countries.
This week, an assembly of 1,200 Afghan leaders in the Pakistani city of
Peshawar called on the Taliban to relinquish power and urged that a grand
assembly to be held to establish a broad-based interim government, with
help from the former Afghan king. The group said it feared "bloodshed and
disorder" would reign if any one group came to power through military
But the meeting, held by the Assembly for Peace and National Unity of
Afghanistan, was marred by the absence or opposition of key political
It was snubbed by former king Mohammed Zahir Shah, who lives in
Rome, and it did not include representatives of either the domestic
anti-Taliban insurgency or of purported moderates within the Taliban.In
his comments today, Musharraf said it was essential for any future Afghan
government to be "home-grown," and that it should be "not imposed, only
facilitated" by foreign governments such as Pakistan and the United
Musharraf, who appeared relaxed but serious during his 90-minute meeting
with the foreign journalists, insisted that the Peshawar meeting had been
a "definite success" and a "good beginning" to the process of establishing
a broad-based government. He seemed genuinely surprised at suggestions to
the contrary, saying, "I need more information on that."
Musharraf repeated and elaborated on comments he made last week during the
visit of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, when both officials agreed
that elements within the Taliban should be part of any future Afghan
"We cannot ignore reality," he said. "If we want to bring peace and unity,
all sections of society must be represented, and the Taliban happen to be
one important section at the moment."
Musharraf also said the Taliban had been initially accepted by the Afghan
people, especially its ethnic Pashtun majority, and that "chaos and
anarchy" could return to Afghanistan if minority rule was imposed by
force. -- NNI