In Pakistan Quandary, U.S. Reviews Stance
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The scenes of carnage in Pakistan this week conjured what one senior administration official on Friday called “the nightmare scenario” for President Bush’s last 15 months in office: Political meltdown in the one country where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play.
White House officials insisted in interviews that they had confidence that their longtime ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, would maintain enough control to keep the country stable as he edged toward a power-sharing agreement with his main rival, Benazir Bhutto.
But other current and former officials cautioned that six years after the United States forced General Musharraf to choose sides in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, American leverage over Pakistan is now limited. Though General Musharraf seems likely to survive a multifront challenge to his authority, he is weakened.
Ever since Iran came on the nuclear (noo-kyoo-lar to some) scene, I’ve been making noise about a country that already has the bomb, already is unstable and already hosts a huge anti-American Islamic fundamentalist population.
But it’s not on Dick Cheney’s horizon.