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Musharraf refused to act against al-Qaeda, Taliban: Robert Gates

The real power in Pakistan is the military, says Gates

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Pakistan's then powerful army chief Pervez Musharraf not only refused to take action against top al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but also struck a deal with the terror groups that led to their revival in Afghanistan, according to former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

In his forthcoming memoir, Gates writes that in February 2007 he submitted a set of specific requests to Musharraf including capture of three named Taliban and extremist leaders; and demanded that his government shut down the Taliban headquarters in Quetta and Peshawar.

But the then Pakistani ruler did not take any action.

"I gave him a list of specific actions we wanted Pakistan to take, actions we could take together, and actions the US was prepared to take alone. In private, Musharraf acknowledged Pakistani failures and problems on the border, but he asked me what a lone Pakistani border sentry could do if he saw thirty to forty Taliban moving toward the Afghan border," he writes referring to his meeting with Musharraf in Islamabad in 2007.

"I responded, you should permit the sentry to warn us, and we will ambush the Taliban. He replied, 'I like ambushes, we ought to be setting them daily.' If only, I thought," Gates writes in his book 'Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War'.

During that private meeting on February 12, 2007, Gates writes he submitted to Musharraf a long list of requests to be done by Pakistan. Topping the list was capturing three named Taliban and extremist leaders, he writes, without disclosing the names of the three terrorist leaders.

During the meeting, he also sought permission from Pakistan to give the US expanded authority to take action against specific Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders and targets in Pakistan; dismantling insurgent and terrorist camps; and shutting down the Taliban headquarters in Quetta and Peshawar.

As per the list, the US also asked Musharraf to disrupt certain major infiltration routes across the border; enhance intelligence cooperation and streamline Pakistani decision making on targeting; and allowing expanded Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance flights over Pakistan.

"Musharraf kept a straight face and pretended to take all this seriously," Gates, who was the defence secretary from December 2006 to July 2011, writes.

"While the Pakistanis would eventually deploy some 140,000 troops on their border with Afghanistan and endure heavy losses in fighting there, and while there was some modest progress on joint operations centers and border security stations, we'd still be asking for virtually all these me actions years later," he writes.

Gates says that the real power in Pakistan is the military, and in November 2007 Musharraf handed over leadership of the army to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

"At that point, I turned the Pakistani account over to Mike Mullen, who would travel to Pakistan regularly to talk with Kayani," he writes.

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First Published: Sun, January 12 2014. 14:00 IST