Zardari believed 'US was behind Taliban attacks in Pak' to gain access to its nukes

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Washington, Oct 13 (ANI): Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US envoy to Afghanistan, once brushed off Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's claim, that the US was "arranging" the (suicide) attacks by Pakistani Taliban inside his country, as 'madness', and was of the view that both Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who believed in this US conspiracy theory, were "dysfunctional" leaders.

The account of Zardari's claim about the US' hand in the attacks has been elaborately reproduced by US journalist Bob Woodward, on Page 116 of his famous book 'Obama's Wars,' The News reported.

Woodward's account goes like this: "One evening during the trilateral summit (in Washington, between Obama, Karzai and Zardari) Zardari had dinner with Zalmay Khalilzad, the 58-year-old former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN, during the Bush presidency.

"Zardari dropped his diplomatic guard. He suggested that one of the two countries was arranging the attacks by the Pakistani Taliban inside his country: India or the US. Zardari didn't think India could be that clever, but the US could. Karzai had told him the US was behind the attacks, confirming the claims made by the Pakistani ISI."

"Mr President," Khalilzad said, "what would we gain from doing this? You explain the logic to me."

"This was a plot to destabilize Pakistan, Zardari hypothesized, so that the US could invade and seize its nuclear weapons. He could not explain the rapid expansion in violence otherwise. And the CIA had not pursued the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, a group known as Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan or TTP that had attacked the government. TTP was also blamed for the assassination of Zardari's wife, Benazir Bhutto."

"We give you targets of Taliban people you don't go after," Zardari said. "You go after other areas. We're puzzled," Woodward quoted him.

But the drones were primarily meant to hunt down members of al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents, not the Pakistan Taliban, Khalilzad responded.

"But the Taliban movement is tied to al Qaeda, Zardari said, so by not attacking the targets recommended by Pakistan the US had revealed its support of the TTP. The CIA at one time had even worked with the group's leader, Baitullah Mehsud, Zardari asserted."

Woodward reports: "Khalilzad listened calmly, even though the claims struck him as madness. The US was using the Taliban to topple the Pakistani government? Ridiculous. But Khalilzad knew Afghanistan's President Karzai also believed in this conspiracy theory, more evidence that this region of the world and its leaders were dysfunctional."

"Despite Zardari's claims, Pakistani government officials had received top secret CIA briefings about drone attacks against Baitullah Mehsud's TTP. A March 12, 2009 attack against a Mehsud compound killed more than two dozen militants, who quickly retrieved the remains of their fallen comrades. And on April 1, another five militants linked to Mehsud, including an al Qaeda trainer, died in a drone strike, according to a CIA briefing given to Pakistan in April."

This account by Woodward, although old, reveals how initially Zardari and his strategists viewed and tackled the suicide attacks inside Pakistan. However, it is not clear whether his strong conspiracy theory forced the US strategists and CIA to start attacking the Pakistan Taliban and prove him wrong. (ANI)

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