Musharraf govt had al Qaeda sympathisers on key posts

Cheney's memoirs reveal how weary the Bush administration had grown of Musharraf and his false promises.

Ppi August 30, 2011

WASHINGTON DC: Former United States Vice President, Dick Cheney has alleged that  'Al Qaeda sympathisers occupied key slots in former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's government, and Osama bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad suggests the terror group enjoyed significant sympathy,' in his memoirs releasing on Tuesday.

Cheney, who was deputy to George W Bush between 2001 and 2009, says in the period after 9/11 US-Pak ties were bedevilled by a lot of problems before things started changing around 2004. "Pakistan was on the edge. There were major problems in US-Pakistan relations. President Pervez Musharraf's hold on power was tenuous and he had al Qaeda sympathisers in key slots in his government," Cheney further alleges in his memoirs released on Tuesday.

He, however, does not name the government functionaries he refers to as al Qaeda sympathisers in Musharraf's government.

"Pakistan's radical Islamic movement was strong and areas of country were hosting al Qaeda operating bases. Pakistan's stability was a major concern, if radicals managed to take control, they would control the country's nuclear arsenal," he writes in his 533-page book, titled “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir”.

Cheney said the equations between Pakistan and the US started changing by 2004 and Pakistanis helped capture or kill hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, including the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

"In Pakistan President Musharraf had signed up with the United States after 9/11 and was providing significant support for our operations in Afghanistan," he says. Cheney claims as Musharraf's hold on power in Pakistan had started to weaken, the US increasingly found his commitments not translating into actions.

"We also had much to do in Pakistan, where Musharraf had provided key support, but had an increasingly weak hold on power over a government whose loyalties were at times divided," he further claimed.

Cheney also referred to his visit to Pakistan in early 2007 where he was accompanied by CIA deputy director Steve Kappes and during his meetings with Musharraf he strongly raised the question of terrorist safe havens. "We discussed with Musharraf the matter of tribal areas on Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, which both the Taliban and al Qaeda were using to regroup and rearm before crossing the border to attack again," he wrote.

"Musharraf had tried to work out a deal whereby he would agree that Pakistani troops would not interfere in Federally Administered Tribal Areas if the tribal leaders would deny safe haven to al Qaeda and the Taliban. The deal did not work. And although Musharraf continued to express support for our efforts in our private meetings, increasingly his commitments were not translating into actions from his government," Cheney wrote.

Former Vice President alleges within Pakistan government there were also some who continued to support the Taliban, which among other things, hindered efforts to clear out the tribal areas. "Al Qaeda had its sympathisers, too, as Osama bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad for some six years seems to suggest," he writes.

Cheney acknowledges that Musharraf's government worked with the US to capture some of most important leaders in the war on terror. He also claims that safe havens continued to exit in Pakistan, and points out that it was Bush Administration which started use of drones to attack terrorists inside Pakistan. "Our efforts in Afghanistan continued to be hindered by safe havens that Taliban and al Qaeda found in Pakistan, we ramped our use of armed drones - unmanned aerial vehicles," he said.