Does Musharraf guide the Bush agenda?
- “I’ve promised myself I won’t go back to America until the Bush administration leaves . . . It’s hopeless with them there,” PostGlobal panelist
and Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid tells me in his bulletproof library outside Lahore.
For three decades, Ahmed has been investigating the nexus between the Pakistan military and extremist groups, roving tribal lands in between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Over the years, his books and articles have been translated into all local languages, spawning many enemies “bearded and non-bearded” who accuse him of undermining his religion and his state. He’s received so many death threats that he lives in a house encased in sheet metal. A spindly man with a fat shotgun guards the iron gate entrance.
Knowledge is a dangerous thing for Ahmed. When I told the Pakistani Press counselor in DC that I would be visiting Ahmed, I was told "not to put that in writing because Islamabad won't accept your request." Ahmed's family shares the burden. Over a pasta lunch, Ahmed’s Spanish wife tells me with a laugh how anxious her family back home still is about her safety, two decades after she left Spain. Their eighteen-year-old daughter chuckles, and pets one of their three dogs.
Ahmed believes his research is worth the risk. The mountains and valleys surrounding Afghanistan are among the least understood parts of the globe, he says. And he believes his findings help policymakers understand and alleviate tensions in the volatile region. He's shared his research with the world and has had high hopes, particularly for successive U.S. administrations. In recent years that hope has been dashed.
Until Bush came into office, Ahmed thought his words mattered to America. In the 1980s, he discussed Islamic resistance with ambassadors over tea. In the 1990s, he collaborated with policymakers to raise Afghanistan's profile in the Clinton White House. But during the Bush administration, he feels his risky research has been for naught.