Since September 11, General Musharraf, whose regime had been the main source of diplomatic and military support for the terrorist Taliban ruling neighboring Afghanistan, has portrayed his regime as an ally of Washington in its counterterrorism campaign. Musharraf, though, headed a military clique that brought an end to his nation’s short democratic experience, assisted radical Islamic terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir, pressed for a war with India, advanced Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, and presided over a corrupt and mismanaged economy. Despite that record, he is being hailed by the Bush administration as a “courageous” and “visionary” leader who is ready to reorient his country toward a pro‐American position and adopt major political and economic reforms. In exchange for his belated support, Musharraf has been rewarded with U.S. diplomatic backing and substantial economic aid.
Musharraf’s decision to join the U.S. war on terrorism didn’t reflect a structural transformation in Pakistan’s policy. It was a result of tactical considerations aimed at limiting the losses that Islamabad would suffer because of the collapse of the friendly Taliban regime in Kabul. Rejecting cooperation with Washington would have provoked American wrath and placed at risk Pakistan’s strategic and economic interests in South Asia.
Some cooperation between the United States and Pakistan is necessary to wage the war against terrorism, but that cooperation must not evolve into a new long‐term strategic alliance. Washington should view Pakistan, with its dictatorship, failed economy, and insecure nuclear arsenal, as a reluctant supporter of U.S. goals at best and as a potential long‐term problem at worst.