Musharraf offered a detailed analysis of the security situation along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and his strategy to win the support of local tribes through economic and social development, while eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban leadership cells through security operations.
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RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 ISLAMABAD 000528
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2017
TAGS: AF, IN, MOPS, PK, PREL, PTER, XF
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF MEETS SPEAKER PELOSI AND 110TH CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION
Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, Reasons 1.4 (b) and(d)
1. (C) Summary: In a January 27 meeting lasting more than an hour-and-a-half, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Committee/Sub-Committee Chairs of the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Appropriations Committees called on Pakistani President Musharraf. The Speaker noted that this was her first foreign travel in her new position, underscoring the importance the Congress places on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Acknowledging that this was an important visit, the President offered to describe Pakistan's strategies to defeat terrorism and extremism and to clarify U.S. misperceptions about Pakistan's commitment.
2. (C) At the CODEL's request, the President reviewed his recent visit to Middle Eastern capitals, where he promoted his vision of enlightened moderation for the Muslim world; he also counseled Syrian President Assad to abandon his confrontational approach and reconcile with the international community. Musharraf offered a detailed analysis of the security situation along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and his strategy to win the support of local tribes through economic and social development, while eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban leadership cells through security operations. Musharraf told the CODEL that critics who suggest that Pakistan's intelligence agencies are playing a double game in Afghanistan are wrong, saying that such criticism only emboldens our common enemies. The President specifically requested Congressional support for Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs)and U.S. support for his FATA economic initiative of USD 150 million per year, noting Pakistan's own heavy commitment of national funds toward economic development in the border areas; he also reviewed his government's programs to increase spending on education and health care, as envisioned in the U.S.-Pakistan Shared Objectives. Musharraf cast a hard gaze on narcotrafficking in the region, while highlighting Pakistan's anticipated achievement of ""poppy free"" status in 2007. He was optimistic regarding the prospects for improved relations with India. Finally, Musharraf told the Speaker that provisions of H.R. 1 (Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007) concerning Pakistan weaken his position vis-a-vis extremists fighting for Muslim hearts-and-minds in the long war on terror; the Speaker was non-committal in response. End summary.
3. (U) Meeting Participants:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House Rep. Ike Skelton, Chair - House Armed Services Committee Rep. Tom Lantos, Chair - House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Chair - House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Rep. John Murtha, Chair - Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee Rep. Nita Lowey, Chair - State and Foreign Operations Sub-Committee Rep. David Hobson, Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee Mr. Michael Sheehy, National Security Advisor to Speaker Pelosi Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker Mr. John Gastright, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
President Pervez Musharraf ISLAMABAD 00000528 002 OF 006 LTG Hamid Javaid, Chief of Staff BG Shafqat Ahmad, Military Secretary
Outreach to Middle East: Empower Moderates in Muslim World
4. (C) When the Speaker asked about Musharraf's January 20-25 visit to Middle Eastern capitals (Riyadh, Cairo, Amman, Damascus and Abu Dhabi), Musharraf initiated a description of a Muslim World beset by tension. An incipient Iraqi civil war along sectarian lines, sectarian strife in Lebanon, the Shi'a dimension in the U.S.-Iran conflict and, at the core, the unresolved Palestinian question have led the President to believe the time is ripe for a new Muslim voice of moderation. In his talks with his Arab interlocutors, Musharraf laid out his goals: promoting sectarian harmony, organizing joint action against terrorist organizations and building partnerships with Europe and the U.S. The next step is to engage the major non-Arab Muslim states -- Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey. (Note: Musharraf is visiting Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur this week. End note.) He will then seek to develop a statement of common principals; if this succeeds, Saudi King Abdullah has pledged to host an event to launch the initiative. ""I am trying to lead on this issue,"" Musharraf said, admitting that he cannot say whether his efforts will succeed.
5. (C) While in Damascus, Musharraf said that he had a ""frank exchange"" with Syrian President Bashar Assad, telling the Syrian President that his policies are contributing to instability in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. ""Are you for confrontation or not?"" Musharraf demanded, noting that Syria now has few friends left. Bashar responded by saying that he wants to reconcile with the international community and work to solve problems. Musharraf pointed to the need for peace between Hamas and Israel, obtaining Bashar's word that Syria would not obstruct communications between the two. Musharraf offered to help Bashar regain standing in the international community, if Syria is serious about a new direction. Representative Hobson asked whether the U.S. should take a different approach with Bashar. Musharraf advised the U.S. to engage Bashar; he also believes that moderate Muslims could influence the Syrian. He observed that Bashar displayed a sense of being overlooked by the international community: for example, Bashar told Musharraf that the entire world supports the Palestinians, but has forgotten the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. Musharraf wondered whether observers credit Bashar with wielding more power than he actually has, speculating that other forces may be at work. Musharraf perceived Bashar as facing problems similar to those along the PAK-AFG border, quoting Bashar as saying that more than 1 million tribal refugees have flowed into Syria from Iraq. (Note: On hearing this, Musharraf offered Bashar some friendly advice: ""Look into fencing."" End note.)
Straight Talk on Pak-Afghan Border Security
6. (C) Responding to Chairman Skelton's desire to hear the President's perspective on efforts to secure the Pak-Afghan border, Musharraf decried the ""tremendous misunderstandings and misperceptions"" that have led U.S. critics to accuse Pakistan's intelligence agencies of collusion with the Taliban, al Qaeda and other extremists. Musharraf frankly acknowledged that remnants of al Qaeda remain hidden in the mountainous border region. Pakistan is now also focused on the Pashtun tribes who live on both sides of the PAK-AFG ISLAMABAD 00000528 003 OF 006 border. Of the seven tribal agencies in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), populations in North and South Waziristan openly cooperate with Taliban insurgents. Al Qaeda elements are concentrated in Bajaur. The other four agencies, Musharraf contended, are relatively peaceful, although the Taliban has made an effort to infiltrate Kurram, where it has encountered local resistance. In contrast, Musharraf continued, Pashtuns residing in Balochistan are generally peaceful; the trouble ther are Afghan Taliban commanders and foot soldiers who have found safe haven in lawless refugee camps, from which they can operate with impunity.
7. (C) Speaker Pelosi asked the President whether he knew the whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Musharraf replied that Mullah Omar and the Taliban movement emerged from Kandahar, where he presumably remains. ""I do not believe Omar has ever been to Pakistan,"" Musharraf said, contrasting this to al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Ladin and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who may be ensconced in the mountains along the Frontier. Musharraf proceeded to describe Pakistani efforts to locate and apprehend other al Qaeda leaders and Taliban commanders, including Afghans Mullah Dadullah Lang and Jalaluddin Haqqani and Pakistani Baitullah Mehsud; these leaders, Musharraf said, come and go from Pakistan, where they recruit and motivate militants.
8. (C) What is required to defeat the Taliban? Musharraf answered his own rhetorical question, saying that in Afghanistan, the Coalition must deploy military and political resources, while Pakistan controls movement across the PAK-AFG border. The President painted a vivid picture of the on-the-ground challenges: there is no easy way to identify Taliban fighters amongst the 30,000 people who cross the Chaman border crossing in Balochistan daily, only one of 23 crossing points along the province's 2300 km border with Afghanistan. Even with 954 border posts, the government has not been able to control dozens of informal crossing points in Balochistan and the FATA. The strategy must therefore penetrate deeply into the border regions, focusing on (a) eliminating safe havens, including refugee camps; (b) launching military action against the militants' command-and-control targets, and (c) winning the loyalty of local tribes through economic growth, social development and political reform.
9. (C) Arguing that military operations alone will alienate the tribes, Musharraf segued into an overview of the FATA Sustainable Development Plan and a description of the traditional leadership roles of maliks (who represent tribal authority) and political agents (who represent federal and provincial authorities). To ensure that political agents and maliks have the necessary muscle to reinforce their authority to impose law and order, the government is bolstering the numbers and capacity of tribal levies, the Frontier Constabulary and the Frontier Corps. As the Speaker described Chairwoman Lowey's leadership of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Sub-Committee, the President expressed appreciation for her support for Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs), and appealed for USD 150 million/year for five years for FATA development to supplement the national funds already budgeted.
10. (C) Political engagement is crucial, Musharraf said, shifting to a discussion of the September 2006 jirga accord in North Waziristan. ""This agreement is much maligned,"" Musharraf admitted, but it was critical for the government to reach out to local tribal and religious leaders. ISLAMABAD 00000528 004 OF 006 Re-establishing the writ of the government is imperative, but the authorities must work with the local tribes to make this a reality. The greatest failure, Musharraf continued, has been controlling cross-border movement and expelling foreign fighters from the agency; the government is now pushing the tribes hard to live up to their side of the bargain. If they do not, the President said, we will take military action. ""When we locate a target, we will hit it,"" Musahrraf promised, noting that Pakistani forces had done just that ten days earlier. Candidly assessing the agreement as only 25 percent successful so far, Musharraf was adamant that the jirga agreement is/is the only way forward. He said he believes that the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Governor should pursue a similar accord with tribes in South Waziristan.
11. (C) Shifting back to preventing unlawful border crossings, Musharraf addressed the possibility of selective deployment of fences and/or land mines along the border. ""Mining has problems,"" Musharraf acknowledged, but said he wants to proceed with fencing. Military experts have estimated that some 32 km in FATA and 295 km in Balochistan would be appropriate for fences. When Chairman Reyes noted the controversy generated by proposals to fence the U.S.-Mexican border, Musharraf nodded in agreement, then cited Pakistan's long experience with fences and mines along its eastern border with India.
12. (C) Expanding his comments to include Pakistani plans to close lawless Afghan refugee camps, Musharraf asserted that ""nobody wants to assist us in this task."" Frustrated that ""all the ideas I put forward for controlling the border"" are opposed by both the international community and the government in Kabul, Musharraf said that he welcomes other ideas. ""Either help me control the border or help me move the refugees out,"" he said.
Defending Pakistan's Commitment
13. (C) Musharraf told the CODEL that the government is committed to fighting terrorism, as Pakistanis do not want to see their country succumb to creeping Talibanization. Musharraf detailed the heavy losses sustained by Pakistan's security forces, as well as the multiple assassination attempts against the country's political leadership, ""We are not a banana republic and the ISI is not a rogue agency,"" Musharraf said, explaining that he could retire any active-duty general officer with a swipe of his pen: ""ISI is a disciplined service staffed by seasoned military officers who follow my orders.""
14. (C) Later in the conversation, the President expressed concern about H.R. 1 (Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act). Musharraf said that language in the bill questioning Pakistan's reliability as an ally of the U.S. directly damages his ability to wage war on our common enemies (""This weakens me!"") and to inoculate his country against the infection of Islamic extremism.
Shared Objectives and Enlightened Moderation
15. (C) Chairwoman Lowey asked the President to explain why Pakistan has not met mutually-agreed targets for budgetary support for education set forth in the bilateral Shared Objectives. Musharraf defended his record, saying that since he assumed power, he has embraced human resource development ISLAMABAD 00000528 005 OF 006 as essential for sustained growth. He opted for an inital focus on economic development to generate revenue for health and education, and this is happening. Education spending is increasing from 2.6 to 4 percent of GDP under his leadership. Chairman Murtha raised the subject of madrassas, to which the President responded that the appeal of a madrassa education will decline as the public education system improves. Musharraf also highlighted the government's record in improving health care delivery, particularly maternal-pediatric services.
16. (C) Speaker Pelosi raised the specter of suicide bombings, seeking the President's advice on persuading all societies that such attacks are unacceptable. Musharraf agreed, terming suicide attacks as un-Islamic. All countries must find a way to deal with extremism,"" the President said, ""but such terrorism must be addressed by force."" He then outlined his multi-point strategy for combating extremism and promoting ""enlightened moderation"":
-- Prevent the misuse of mosques
-- Prohibit speech that incites the public to violence
-- Ban extremist organizations and their leadership (a delicate business, the President admitted, as the government must not/not be seen as anti-religion)
-- Revise the national curriculum
-- Reform madrassa education, introducing a standard curriculum that includes secular subjects (math, language, science, etc.)
A Poppy-Free Pakistan
17. (C) Chairman Murtha also complimented Pakistan's achievements in fighting the drug trade, asking the President to explain Pakistan's success in contrast with the record poppy harvest in Afghanistan. Musharraf responded: ""There is no effective government control in Afghanistan."" Pakistan was able to implement a coordinated strategy of eradication and destruction, complemented by programs to offer alternative livelihoods. The poppy leads only to narco-fueled financial flows supporting the insurgency. Musharraf suggested that the international community provide funds to buy the Afghan poppy crop directly from the farmers.
18. (C) Chairman Lantos asked the President whether Pakistan needs the U.S. to do more to support relief/reconstruction efforts in the areas devastated by the October 2005 earthquake. Musharraf assured the Chairman that Pakistan is managing the reconstruction process well, noting that prompt intervention had prevented the predicted post-disaster plagues of epidemics, famine and exposure. Now well into the reconstruction phase, the government has allocated USD 3000 to 500,000 families, whose use of the funds to rebuild their homes also injects capital to the recovering local economy. The government has built many temporary schools and university buildings, many of which are better facilities than those which were destroyed.
19. (C) Chairman Lantos asked about the state of Pakistan's relations with India. Musharraf was upbeat in his response, ISLAMABAD 00000528 006 OF 006 saying that he has his fingers crossed. The two countries have made progress with confidence-building measures and have successfully maintained a cease-fire along the Line-of-Control in Kashmir, but the process had stalled on conflict resolution. Now, Musharraf indicated, he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are on the verge of an agreement...""Soon -- sooner than anyone might think."" Musharraf appreciated Singh's flexibility, relating Singh's personal invitation for the President to attend the SAARC Ministerial in New Delhi in April. Musharraf explained his decision to decline the invitation, saying that there is too much euphoria and expectation at present. ""If I went to Delhi, but we didn't sign an agreement, the people would think we had failed,"" he said. Musharraf said that he has conveyed two options to New Delhi: either PM Singh comes to Pakistan before April to sign an agreement or the two hold a signing ceremony at the SAARC Ministerial. Musharraf shared his enthusiasm for the just-concluded visit to Pakistan by three Jammmu and Kashmir leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, noting that he had advised them to egage and bring on board other Kashmiris. ""An agreement should not land like a bombshell,"" said Musharraf. Leaders must prepare their publics, as he is doing in Pakistan.
Iraq's Shadow over the Region
20. (C) Speaker Pelosi described the current situation in Iraq as the most important foreign policy issue confronting the U.S., citing the terrible loss of life and the consequences for America's global reputation. President Musharraf opined that dividing Iraq would be disastrous, citing Turkish opposition to an independent Kurdistan. He believes that Iran is abetting the growing Sunni-Shi'a schism. Referring back to his initiative to build a movement of moderate Muslim voices, Musharraf said this must be done by partners who have credibility in the region, something that the U.S. does not currently enjoy. If a consensus could be endorsed by Sunnis, Shi'as and Kurds, Musharraf mused, perhaps an all-Muslim security force could backfill following the withdrawal of U.S. and British forces.
21. (U) The CODEL did not have an opportunity to clear this cable.