CNN's O'Brien ignored damage from Bush-endorsed Pakistan-tribal leader pact

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In reporting that a "much-criticized pact" between Pakistani President Musharraf and tribal leaders -- that "would have pulled Pakistani troops from that tribal region bordering Afghanistan where many believe Osama Bin Laden is ... fell through" -- CNN's Miles O'Brien did not mention that the deal, which did take effect and which the Bush administration "reluctantly endorsed," facilitated the "regenerat[ion]" of several elements of Al Qaeda's infrastructure, according to a recent National Intelligence Estimate.

On the August 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, guest host Miles O'Brien claimed that "a deal with pro-Taliban militants," a "much-criticized pact [that] would have pulled Pakistani troops from that tribal region bordering Afghanistan where many believe Osama Bin Laden is ... fell through." In fact, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and tribal leaders did agree to a "peace deal" in 2006, as Musharraf told CNN host Wolf Blitzer in September 2006. As Media Matters for America has noted, the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) found that Al Qaeda has "regenerated" several elements of its infrastructure, including a "safehaven" in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In a July 18 article, The New York Times reported that "[i]n identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda's resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region." In that article, reporters Mark Mazzetti and David Sanger also wrote that the Bush administration had "reluctantly endorsed" the deal.

Several news reports noted that the Musharraf peace deal limited Pakistani military operations in the border area. On July 16, The New York Times described the effect of the cease-fire: "After years of fighting to assert its authority, at the cost of about 600 soldiers, it negotiated a series of peace accords with tribal authorities that have all but confined Pakistani troops to their barracks." In an August 7 article, the Associated Press described an attack on a village as "the toughest military action since troops withdrawn from the tribal zone in September 2006 began to redeploy there in July, following the collapse of a controversial peace deal with pro-Taliban militants." Similarly, Bloomberg News reported in a July 13 article, "The Brussels-based International Crisis Group, an organization that tries to resolve conflicts, said in a report last year that the September 2006 agreement between tribal leaders and Musharraf -- called the North Waziristan accord -- helped the Taliban because it limited Pakistani army operations."

On the September 26, 2006, edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Musharraf and Blitzer discussed the cease-fire:

BLITZER: Mr. President, this deal that you worked out with these tribal elders along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, some describe it as, effectively, amnesty for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. You reject that. You say this is part of the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The London Daily Telegraph, though, this past Sunday, wrote this: "The fugitive Taliban commander, Mullah Omar, has emerged as the key player behind the movement's controversial peace deal with Pakistan. The Taliban's one-eyed spiritual leader, who has a $10 million price on his head for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks, signed a letter explicitly endorsing the truce announced this month."

Your reaction.

MUSHARRAF: No. I don't really know anything about what they are saying. I don't know whether they have proof of this. I would like to have the proof of Mullah Omar having supported the process.

But, however, I'm interested in the effects. They approached the governor themselves to reach this peace deal. And the peace deal is between, as you said, with the tribal elders. And the basic strategy, which we must understand, when I'm saying we want to avoid the greatest danger, the disastrous danger of this being converted -- the Taliban getting converted into a people's movement -- we can only do that if you understand that all Pashtun are -- the Taliban are all Pashtuns, but all Pashtuns are not Taliban. We need to take away the Pashtun, the majority -- it is in majority -- I know that -- from the Taliban.

BLITZER: All right.

MUSHARRAF: And this deal is intended to take the majority away from the Pashtun, wean them away, and then utilize them with the force backup to counter the Taliban.

BLITZER: You --

MUSHARRAF: This is the political strategy, which is the right direction.

From the August 9 edition of CNN"s The Situation Room:

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Zain Verjee [CNN State Department correspondent].

Of course, President Musharraf has had other troubles to test his position in power: the Red Mosque standoff, of course. Dozens of young radical students who staged a protest there died last month in a military raid ordered by Musharraf. Pakistan's chief justice, General Musharraf's unpopular dismissal of the chief justice on charges of misconduct, triggered an outcry from Pakistanis wanting to -- an end to military rule. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled to reinstate him.

And a deal with pro-Taliban militants, the much-criticized pact would have pulled Pakistani troops from that tribal region bordering Afghanistan where many believe Osama Bin Laden is. The deal, by the way, fell through.

[CNN anchor] Jack Cafferty is in New York with the "Cafferty File." Hello, Jack.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Miles O'Brien
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
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