At Aspen Ideas: Musharraf says Pakistan isn’t working against U.S.
ASPEN – Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf said Saturday that he is certain his country is not helping terrorist organizations fight the U.S. or allowing them to take sanctuary along the Afghanistan border, though he acknowledged that “rogue elements may be doing something underhanded.”
Musharraf addressed a full house at the Aspen Music Tent during the showcase event at the Aspen Ideas Festival. His interviewer was David Bradley, owner of Atlantic Media Group, who said many Americans find it hard to believe that elements of the Pakistani government, military or intelligence aren’t assisting terrorists groups. That sentiment peaked when Osama bin Laden was discovered and killed last year while hiding in Pakistan.
Musharraf, who served as president of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008 but is now an exile, insisted that there is no policy or strategic reason that official forces in the country would be assisting U.S. enemies.
“That is not a possibility at all,” he said.
The government under his control was closely tied with the U.S. and its allies in the war on terror after 9/11.
Musharraf said his government failed to take advantage of military superiority over insurgents between 2002 and 2004. The military had chased the insurgents into rugged mountain regions. That military victory should have been transformed into a political victory. It wasn’t, and now there’s been a resurgence of the Taliban that is creating unrest.
He was critical of the job elected officials are doing in his country, though he didn’t elaborate.
“The state is being run into the ground,” he said.
As a result, Pakistanis are looking to the military for help in stabilizing the country. The situation poses a dilemma for the military, said Musharraf, a retired four-star general. The military can violate the constitution to “save the state,” or it can allow the constitution to be followed and risk the state will fail.
Musharraf said he will return to his country next year for parliamentary elections despite the possible risk to his life. He has faced at least seven assassination attempts.
“I will go back even with peril to my life,” he said.
The Aspen Ideas Festival features “An Afternoon of Conversation” each year. As always, the segment included some heavy-hitters in government and academia. The audience gave a standing ovation to retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. He was interviewed by CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer, who asked for McChrystal’s perspective on the Rolling Stone magazine piece in 2010 that led to the general’s resignation. The article quoted members of McChrystal’s staff as being critical of civilian leaders in the Obama administration.
McChrystal quipped that he doesn’t have a subscription to Rolling Stone and did not address the substance of the article. He said the freelance writer working for Rolling Stone was one of several reporters spending time with his staff during that time period. The article that appeared was not what McChrystal expected, he said.
McChrystal ended up offering his resignation to President Obama. He did so because he had a responsibility to his commander in chief, he said. As a military commander, McChrystal said he felt strongly that he could “never dodge responsibility.” That drew applause from the audience.
Among other highlights of “An Afternoon of Conversation”:
• Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense and a highly decorated soldier, said the possibility of Iran gaining nuclear-weapon capability is obviously a top concern for his country. Israel cannot delegate authority of dealing with Iran to the U.S., even though it is its most highly trusted ally. He said Israel must keep all options on the table and that sanctions must be ratcheted up immediately against Iran and negotiations must be tough. Barak also said Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s days are clearly numbered as president of Syria. (“He can probably survive for a month or two,” Barak said.) Russia, Turkey, NATO and the U.S. all must play a role in stabilizing the country once the government is toppled, he said.
• Harvard professor and economist Lawrence Summers said he doesn’t see the U.S. economy slipping back into recession. However, growth will be so small that it won’t feel like the country is gaining ground, he said. Summers argued against drastic reductions in spending. Borrowing rates are so favorable, he said, that the country should be spending to improve its infrastructure and investing in education.
• Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, said he would not be interested in running for vice president, if asked. He has been hired as president of Purdue University. Daniels said America must embrace natural-gas production as a way to become self-sufficient on energy and to spur the economy. Daniels said there should be a “pause” on everything that interferes with hiring in general, such as taxes and new regulations. In contrast to Summers, he said government must cut spending. Government programs such as Social Security and Medicare must go to a need-based system, he said.
The Aspen Ideas Festival continues through Tuesday.
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