Morning Report: March 5, 2006

Bush meets Musharraf in Pakistan; discord within and without. MSNBC: 'President Bush praised Pakistan’s fight against terrorism as unfaltering but turned down an appeal for the same civilian nuclear help the United States intends to give India, this country’s archrival. “Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories,” Bush said at a news conference with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Saturday. The White House said that was a diplomatic way of saying no, at least not now.' Debka discerns a "chill" in US/Pakistan relations: 'DEBKAfile’s Pakistan correspondent reports the relationship has entered choppy waters. The two leaders were at odds on the two main themes of their talks: the spillover of Islamic terrorism across Pakistani borders and nuclear issues. On the global war on terror, the Bush administration is reviewing Musharraf’s centrality, while nuclear proliferation is more of a sore point than ever. Pakistan is under heavy US pressure to cut its links with terrorist elements operating across the border in India and Afghanistan. Musharraf insists he is sincerely doing everything possible to uproot al Qaeda from the troubled Pakistan-Afghan tribal belt and halting cross-border infiltration into Indian-administered Kashmir. Neither Kabul nor New Delhi believes him. The Kabul government has accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye from time to time to the infiltration from Pakistan's tribal areas into Afghanistan. After a recent visit to Islamabad, Afghan president Karzai handed the Pakistanis a list of 50 Taliban fugitives operating freely in the tribal belt with a request for their arrest.' Meanwhile, via The Intelligence Summit, Pakistani forces clashed with al-Qaeda militants near the border with Afghanistan: 'Fierce fighting broke out on Saturday between Pakistani security forces and pro-Taliban militants in a tribal region near the Afghan border, residents and an intelligence official said. The fighting erupted after the militants seized one government building and attacked others in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, they said. "A heavy exchange of fire is going on between the two sides. At least three helicopter gunships are also being used by the army," a resident said. "We don't know about losses because it is dark and there is no electricity or telephone available," he said. "I can see a huge cloud of smoke billowing out of the town's market." The fighting erupted in Miranshah and nearby areas as U.S. President George W. Bush was visiting Pakistan for talks with President Pervez Musharraf on the war on terrorism.' The Debka report previously cited elaborates: 'On the day of Bush’s surprise visit to Kabul last week, Pakistani security forces launched an intense military operation in the South Waziristan region of the Pak-Afghan tribal belt and reportedly killed 35 to 40 al-Qaeda related terrorists, many of them foreigners. Another such action, allegedly killing another 50 terrorists, was announced Saturday, the day of the US president’s talks in Islamabad. ... While Islamabad strongly denies reports of Taliban and al-Qaeda infiltration into Afghanistan from the Pakistani side, the Karzai government insists that the infiltration was actually being orchestrated from the Pakistani border.' (various)

Abdul Hakim Bukhary, alive after his labyrinth - and America's. Big Pharaoh passes on this item about an ex-Talibanista who's done time for both sides ... and knows which side he likes better: 'The Taliban disapproved of Bukhary's idle comment [praising Ahmed Shah Masood]. "For saying that, they punished me. They bothered me. They beat me. They hit me very badly," Bukhary said at his hearing, according to the transcripts, released to The Associated Press late Friday. The Taliban accused Bukhary of being a spy and threw him into prison in Kandahar, along with 1,600 other prisoners. He said Guantanamo was better than the prison in Kandahar. He could eat. He could talk. "Prisoners here are in paradise," he exclaimed. "American people are very good. Really. They give us three meals. Fruit juice and everything!"' (AP via BP)

CTB: Update on Zawahiri tape. The Counterterrorism Blog: 'In new audio and video tapes released yesterday, Al Qaeda's #2, Ayman al-Zawahri, urges followers to attack the West, supports the "cartoon jihad" economic strikes aganist Danish and other Western countries, supports Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel, and asks for contributions for his and other Islamic terrorists.' Full article and analysis at the link. (CTB)

Mbeki terrorizes journalists. Baldilocks: 'Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki appears to be taking some totalitarian steps that are frightening to me personally, as well as being another blow to an Africa that seems to take two or more steps backward for every step forward toward having more than a handful of free, open and peaceful societies. ... As most regular readers of this blog know, I have an interest in the well-being of one particular Kenyan journalist. My father is the managing editor of the Kenya's Daily Nation and has been an uncomprimising critic of his president. He has experienced some persecution during his long career, but he's an old man now. Still, it's not in my nature to worry.' Details and updates at the link. (Baldilocks)

Australian firm serves jihadist al-Qassam website. Internet Haganah observes that 'the official site of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the operational wing of the terrorist organization Hamas' (featuring the now-famous "nuke Israel" graphic), with the domain name alqassam.com, has been restored after a brief suspension last week - with the apparently illegal help of a certain Primus Telco, based in Melbourne, Australia. What to you have to say for yourselves, Primus? (Internet Haganah)

Condi in Pakistan. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
And then finally here in Pakistan, again, we tend to think of it as a relationship principally in the war on terror. But the President just had a really wonderful meeting with some members of civil society -- a woman who's the head of a bank that is -- principally gives micro loans for women-owned businesses; the head of the American-Pakistani Business Council, which has raised extraordinary amounts of money for the earthquake relief; a person here who is head of a Christian center here, who has been a part of the fight that President Musharraf mentioned to mainstream minorities and minority religions into the political process; a woman member of parliament who talked about her work on women's issues and women's legislation, in particular domestic violence laws against the adultery and rape as being equal.

So the breadth of the work that we were doing here was very evident when many of the people around that table said, I have a USAID grant to do this, or the U.S. Agriculture Department is working with us on this. So it was very clear that this, too, is a very broad relationship.

Full text at the link. (Department of State)