The Most Dangerous Nation In The World Isn’t Iraq

October 21st, 2007 Posted By Pat Dollard.


Benazir Bhutto was worried she would not survive the day. It was, for her, to be a moment of joyous return after eight years of exile, but also an hour of great peril. Just before she left Dubai for Pakistan on Thursday, Oct. 18, Bhutto directed that a letter be hand-delivered to Pervez Musharraf, the embattled Pakistani autocrat with whom she had negotiated a tenuous political alliance. If anything happens to me, please investigate the following individuals in your government, she wrote, according to an account given to NEWSWEEK by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister, then proceeded to name several senior security officials she considered to be enemies, Zardari said. Principal among those she identified, according to another supporter who works for her Pakistan People’s Party, was Ejaz Shah, the head of Pakistan’s shadowy Intelligence Bureau, which runs domestic surveillance in somewhat the way M.I.5 does in Britain. Shah, a longtime associate of Musharraf’s, is believed by Bhutto supporters to have Islamist sympathies. And Bhutto had boldly challenged Pakistan’s Muslim extremists, declaring before her arrival that “the terrorists are trying to take over my country, and we have to stop them.”

Bhutto was certainly prescient about the threat. On Thursday, as her motorcade inched along a parade route guarded by roughly 20,000 Pakistani security forces, one or more suicide bombers set off twin explosions that killed at least 134 bystanders and police, and injured 450 others. The bombs narrowly missed Bhutto, who had ducked into her armored truck minutes before. Shaken but uninjured, she was rushed to safety. Musharraf’s government quickly fingered Baitullah Mehsud, a longtime Taliban supporter and director of some of the most lethal training facilities for suicide bombers in the far-off mountains of Waziristan. Mehsud had reportedly threatened Bhutto. She and her husband, however, pointed much closer to home. “We do not buy that it was Mehsud,” Zardari told NEWSWEEK. There was no immediate evidence that Shah was connected to the bombing. At a news conference the next day, though, Bhutto noted that the streetlights had mysteriously been turned off on her parade route and said: “I am not accusing the government. I am accusing people, certain individuals who abuse their positions. Who abuse their powers.”

Whoever the real culprits turn out to be, the truth is that Pakistan’s government has only itself to blame for the carnage in Karachi. Pakistani leaders created the Islamist monster that now operates with near impunity throughout the country. Militant Islamist groups that were originally recruited, trained and armed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) have since become Islamabad’s deadliest enemies. Twice they have nearly succeeded in assassinating Musharraf, who was once among their strongest supporters. In the last six years extremists have killed more than 1,000 Pakistani troops.

Today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan. It has everything Osama bin Laden could ask for: political instability, a trusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-Western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state-of-the-art electronic technology, regular air service to the West and security services that don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. (Unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan, there also aren’t thousands of American troops hunting down would-be terrorists.) Then there’s the country’s large and growing nuclear program. “If you were to look around the world for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it’s right in their backyard,” says Bruce Riedel, the former senior director for South Asia on the National Security Council.

The conventional story about Pakistan has been that it is an unstable nuclear power, with distant tribal areas in terrorist hands. What is new, and more frightening, is the extent to which Taliban and Qaeda elements have now turned much of the country, including some cities, into a base that gives jihadists more room to maneuver, both in Pakistan and beyond.

In recent months, as Musharraf has grown more and more unpopular after eight years of rule, Islamists have been emboldened. The homegrown militants who have hidden Al Qaeda’s leaders since the end of 2001 are no longer restricted to untamed mountain villages along the border. These Islamist fighters now operate relatively freely in cities like Karachi—a process the U.S. and Pakistani governments call “Talibanization.” Hammered by suicide bombers and Iraq-style IEDs and reluctant to make war on its countrymen, Pakistan’s demoralized military seems incapable of stopping the jihadists even in the cities. “Until I return to fight, I’ll feel safe and relaxed here,” Abdul Majadd, a Taliban commander who was badly wounded this summer during a fire fight against British troops in Afghanistan, told NEWSWEEK recently after he was evacuated to Karachi for emergency care.


6 Responses

  1. cclezel

    If I had a hunch I would bet that Al-Q is ready to call Iraq lost and sieze the opportunity they think is at hand in Pakistan. It just seems too promising for them to ignore and Iraq to costly for them to persist.

  2. John Cunningham

    Pakistan still has India to think about. India will not tolerate an unstable nuclear Pakistan.

  3. cnchess

    Yeah, Bush suckered Al Qaeda into Iraq because they thought it would be easy. They are so divorced from reality, they thought that everyone hated the US as much as they do. They thought that by murdering a few of the less devout, they could raise a general rebellion. What they found is what we found. After 30 something years under Sadaam, there are not a lot of brave leaders left in the population. So as their bloody brutality continued, it had to go so far that it actually caused the Iraqis to rise up and kill them. This may be the only thing that could have united Iraq. It probably was not planned this way, but it really is the best outcome. Now, Al Qaeda will never take over Iraq. Pakistan has nukes though, and it looks like we need another vertical shock to the system…. Iran anyone?

  4. A. S. Wise- VA

    God help us if the rug pilots get control of the nuclear arsenal over there.

  5. ssgduke54

    Iraq could be a decoy setup by Al-Q while they concentrate on Pakistan. If they could capture Pakistan and acquire their Nuclear weapons it would be really bad news for us. The only thing that might save the day is India invade Pakistan to stop Al-Q and the Taliban. I don’t think India wants a radical Islamic government next door to them so they have to do something. All we can now do is wait and see what will happen in the next few months. :???:

  6. Jewish Odysseus

    I hate to put it this way, but if Pakistan goes jihadi, and they take control of its nukes, it will be time for the 21st century version of “distributing diseased buffalo hides.” :shock:

    We really have not fought a total war since August 1945, but that will be the time for it, God have mercy on their souls.

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