Washington believes it already has the Pakistani military and political leaders in Islamabad on its side. Now it needs to ensure that the third asset needed in this crucial "war on terror" arena - the presidency - is filled by "their" man
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
"KARACHI - Sixty-five-year-old Pervez Musharraf's biggest problem now is to decide where to spend his retirement years; in Pakistan, which he has dominated politically for nearly nine years, or in exile, far from the madding crowd he would leave behind him.
For Musharraf's erstwhile supporters in Washington, the search has already begun to find a replacement for the man who in 2001 dramatically reversed his country's alignment to make it a key player in the "war on terror" and made himself an indispensable component of the US's policies in the region.
That usefulness ran its course and, bowing to the inevitable, Musharraf on Monday resigned as president.....
A taste of things to come
The few weeks before Musharraf's exit witnessed a major military operation in Bajaur Agency on the border with Afghanistan's Kunar province to root out al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Such operations are not new in the troubled tribal areas, but this one was characterized by heavy aerial bombardment, eventually forcing the Taliban to pull back. They had targeted the agency to disrupt the flow of supplies into Afghanistan to support the Western coalition there......
"This is the role Washington wants the Pakistani army to play. The cost is paid by Pakistanis and 250,000 people were displaced during the Bajaur operation," Gul added, pointing to the fact that in terms of security issues, especially those relating to Afghanistan, Pakistan is still joined at the hip with the US, for which it has since 2001 received over US$10 billion in aid and military equipment.
As Musharraf heads in the next few days to Saudi Arabia to perform umra (pilgrimage), and a possible life in exile - he is, after all, a prime al-Qaeda target - he can only contemplate whether his successor will be any better in balancing these US needs with Pakistan's own interests. "