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A festering mess in Pakistan

| Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011

WASHINGTON

For Pakistanis, arguably the world's most anti-U.S. population, the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a military post at the Afghan-Pakistan border was deliberate.

The U.S. and NATO commands immediately said they regretted the loss of life but held back any formal apology pending a thorough investigation. They said the Pakistanis -- who may have been mistaken for Taliban partisans -- were the first to open fire.

The suspicion is that the Pakistanis were harboring the insurgents, who first opened fire and then retreated into the army base appropriately named Camp Volcano.

The latest crisis in this rocky relationship escalated quickly on the Pakistani side. Islamabad demanded that the only CIA drone base in the country pack up and leave, which the United States was preparing to do anyway.

The twin NATO supply routes from Karachi into Afghanistan, which supply 30 percent of Afghan war requirements, were closed, immobilizing hundreds of tanker trucks.

Compounding the crisis is the absence of Pakistan's exceptionally brilliant ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, brought down by a shameless self-promoter, Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American.

Ijaz had given an alleged memo from Haqqani to former national security adviser James L. Jones for relay to U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo, according to Ijaz, asked for U.S. help in heading off a possible Pakistani military coup and promised concessions in return.

Mullen said he had read the document and ignored it. It didn't sound plausible, neither the alleged original sender nor the language used.

When the memo was leaked to the media in Pakistan, Haqqani denied authorship and was immediately recalled to Islamabad, where he was forced to resign. His replacement: Sherry Rehman, 50, a member of the National Assembly.

Haqqani now faces the threat of being tried on a variety of trumped-up charges, perhaps even treason. He once wrote a book titled "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military." Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's all-powerful military and civilian agency, where Haqqani once served, had scores to settle with him.

No one can understand why and how Haqqani trusted Ijaz and implicated himself with e-mail and text messages that led to his dismissal and possible trial for treason.

Rehman is a staunch defender of democracy, the democratic process, human rights and civilian control of the military. But her ultrapoor giant of a country of 187 million people still cannot afford a decent high school system as the military absorbs almost 40 percent of the budget.

Rehman has her hands full trying to put Pakistan's relations with the United States back on the track of mutual distrust from the slough of outright hostility where it now wallows.

Gone, too, is the notion that there is no solution to the Afghan war without Pakistan and for Pakistan without the Taliban. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons of Vietnam. Henceforth the solution must include Afghan neighbors Iran, China, Russia and India.

That's what Henry Kissinger advocates today. But we have no new Kissinger to make it happen. And we can't wait until the end of 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama's final exit deadline.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and United Press International. L. Brent Bozell III is off today.

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