Almost any way you slice it, Vice President Cheney has lost influence and prestige since September 11, 2001.
The Vice President shot a guy in the face. The Vice President stood up for his boss and the policies of the Bush Administration even when almost everyone disagreed with the administration. And Mr. Cheney was out front in talking to people like NBCs Tim Russert of “Meet the Press.”
Today, President Bush met with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai has made no secret of the fact that he believes the Taliban, al-Qaeda and perhaps Osama Bin Laden himself are hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan: the land governed by President General Pervez Musharraf. The tribal areas are along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. They form, as the name implies, a semi-autonomous region. Pakistan’s Army does not venture into the tribal areas without severe trepidation.
For more than a year, we at Peace and Freedom have had an almost daily dialogue with journalist Muhammad Khurshid from Khar, Bajaur Agency, Tribal Areas Pakistan. Muhammad has given us at Peace and Freedom, and we hope, many readers, an appreciation for Pakistan, President General Musharraf and especially the tribal areas.
For the past few weeks, Musharraf has been under fire to some degree by those in the United States that believe he has allowed the Taliban and al-Qaeda free rein in the tribal areas.
As President Bush met with President Karzai, the government of Pakistan used the opportunity to again go on the attack in denial that Pakistan’s tribal areas are a “safe haven” for terrorists.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said at a weekly briefing Monday: “There is no al-Qaida or Taliban safe haven in Pakistan.”
But pressure on Pakistan persists, from congress, from presidential hopefuls, from newspaper commentators (like myself).
The silent player in all of this is Vice President Cheney.
It is our belief now, after talking to many sources, that President Cheney’s total support and high regard for President General Musharraf may now be totally discredited.
One has to return to the “Meet the Press” of Sunday, September 10, 2006, to fully appreciate Cheney’s support for Musharraf at that time.
On that “Meet the Press” of Sunday, September 10, 2006, Vice President Cheney expressed strong U.S. Government support for President Musharraf of Pakistan as follows:
“President Musharraf has been a great ally. There was, prior to 9/11, a close relationship between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban. Pakistan was one of only three nations that recognized, diplomatically recognized the government of Afghanistan at that particular time. But the fact is Musharraf has put his neck on the line in order to be effective in going after the extremist elements including al-Qaeda and including the Taliban in Pakistan. There have been three attempts on his life, two of those by al-Qaeda over the course of the last three years. This is a man who has demonstrated great courage under very difficult political circumstances and has been a great ally for the United States”.
“So there’s no question in that area along the Afghan/Pakistan border is something of a no man’s land, it has been for centuries. It’s extraordinarily rough territory. People there who move back and forth across the border, they were smuggling goods before there was concern about, about terrorism. But we need to continue to work the problem. Musharraf just visited Karzai in, in Kabul this past week, they’re both going to be here during the course of the U.N. General Assembly meetings over the course of the next few weeks. We worked that area very hard, and the Paks have been great allies in that effort.”
“Pakistan, we’ve gone in and worked closely with Musharraf to take down al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia, same thing. In all of those cases, it’s been a matter of getting the locals into the fight to prevail over al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-related tyrants.”