Blitzer failed to question Townsend on Musharraf pact with Pakistani tribes
Research ››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE
During a discussion about U.S. efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, Wolf Blitzer did not ask presidential homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend about the cease-fire agreement between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and pro-Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas, which the Bush administration reportedly "reluctantly endorsed."
On the September 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer interviewed presidential homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, who asserted that "we face Al Qaeda not only in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in the tribal areas, we also face it in Iraq." Later, she stated that "we work with our Pakistani as well as Afghani allies and other allies around the world for lead information so that we can ultimately capture or kill" Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. However, Blitzer did not ask Townsend about the cease-fire agreement between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and pro-Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal areas, which the Bush administration reportedly "reluctantly endorsed" and which Musharraf acknowledged during a September 2006 CNN interview with Blitzer. Nor did Blitzer inquire about the recent National Intelligence Estimate's (NIE) finding -- as noted by Media Matters for America -- 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 on the NIE, 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 E. Sanger also wrote that the Bush administration had "reluctantly endorsed" the deal. They further reported that "the accord seems to have unraveled." Indeed, the article quoted Townsend herself saying of the cease-fire: "It hasn't worked for Pakistan. ... It hasn't worked for the United States."
Additionally, several news reports noted that the Musharraf peace deal limited Pakistani military operations in the border area. On July 16, the 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."
From the 7 p.m. ET hour of the September 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: You know, as soon as everyone sees it, though, they're going to be reminded that -- especially Tuesday, the sixth anniversary -- this guy has still got a production company. He's got all his aides running around. He's still alive, presumably, and well. And it's a huge failure that the United States of America, with all of our enormous resources, can't find this guy.
TOWNSEND: Well, it's not for a lack of resources devoted against that task. Obviously, it's a huge priority for us to capture and kill bin Laden and bring he and the rest of the leadership to justice. We've had tremendous success in bringing leaders of Al Qaeda to justice, and we seek -- he is -- there is no greater target on our Al Qaeda list than bin Laden.
BLITZER: Because the argument has been, we took valuable assets from the Afghan-Pakistan border and moved them to Iraq. If we would have had the necessary resources, we might have gotten the job done a few years ago instead of diverting those resources to Iraq.
TOWNSEND: Well, there is -- but there's no question, we face Al Qaeda not only in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in the tribal areas, we also face it in Iraq.
BLITZER: Well, I'm talking about bin Laden, bin Laden himself. We assume he's somewhere on that border, right?
TOWNSEND: Well, that's right. And as we've spoken about before, Wolf, we work with our Pakistani allies as well as our Afghani allies and other allies around the world for lead information so that we can ultimately capture or kill him.
BLITZER: What does the president say to you?