PAKISTAN….Asia Times has a slightly different take on the story about Pakistan delivering al-Qaeda operatives to the U.S. in time for the election:

When US Central Command commander General John Abizaid visited Islamabad last week, his first priority was not Pakistan sending troops to Iraq, but the arrest of high-value al-Qaeda targets.

….Already, though, under intense pressure from the US, Pakistan has handed over as many as 350 suspected al-Qaeda operators into US custody. Most have been low-ranking, but some important names are, according to Asia Times Online contacts, being held in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) safe houses to be presented at the right moment.

The contacts say that Pakistan’s strategic circles see the high-value al-Qaeda operators as “bargaining chips” to ensure continued US support for President General Pervez Musharraf’s de facto military rule in Pakistan. Had Pakistan handed over top targets such as Osama bin Laden, his deputy Dr Aiman al-Zawahir, Tahir Yuldash (leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) and others ? assuming it was in a position to do so ? the military rulers would have lost their usefulness to the US in its “war on terror”.

This is Asia Times, which tends to be fairly breathless about this kind of thing, so take it with a grain of salt. But it suggests an interesting tug of war: Pakistan’s leaders are under pressure from the U.S. and therefore need to demonstrate a certain level of cooperation, but at the same time they’re afraid that if the U.S. ever “wins” the war against al-Qaeda elements in Pakistan we will promptly discard Pakistan as an ally. Which, in fairness, is pretty much what the United States does to most allies who outlive their usefulness (see Aghanistan, War Against Soviet Domination of).

Obviously there are internal tensions in Pakistan too, which has a very substantial pro-Taliban faction. But I thought this sounded like an interesting additional tidbit.

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