He Became a Reluctant US Ally After 9/11

Former Pakistani leader Musharraf dies at 79
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 5, 2023 5:30 AM CST
Pakistan's Musharraf, Key US Ally After 9/11, Dies at 79
President of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf salutes on April 9, 2002, at a public rally in Lahore, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Zia Mazhar, File)

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup and later led a reluctant Pakistan into aiding the US war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, has died at 79. Musharraf, a former special forces commando, became president through the last of a string of military coups that roiled Pakistan since its founding amid the bloody 1947 partition of India. He ruled the nuclear-armed state after his 1999 coup through tensions with India, an atomic proliferation scandal and an Islamic extremist insurgency. He stepped down in 2008 while facing possible impeachment. Later in life, Musharraf lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai to avoid criminal charges, despite attempting a political comeback in 2012, per the AP.

But it wasn’t to be as his poor health plagued his last years. He maintained a soldier’s fatalism after avoiding a violent death that always seemed to be stalking him as Islamic militants twice targeted him for assassination. “I have confronted death and defied it several times in the past because destiny and fate have always smiled on me,” Musharraf once wrote. “I only pray that I have more than the proverbial nine lives of a cat.” Musharraf’s family announced in June 2022 that he had been hospitalized for weeks in Dubai while suffering from amyloidosis, an incurable condition that sees proteins build up in the body’s organs.

Back in 2001, Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, sheltered by the country’s Taliban rulers. Musharraf knew what would come next. “America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear,” he wrote in his autobiography. “If the perpetrator turned out to be al-Qaida, then that wounded bear would come charging straight toward us.” By Sept. 12, then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Musharraf that Pakistan would either be “with us or against us.” Musharraf said another American official threatened to bomb Pakistan ”back into the Stone Age” if it chose the latter. Musharraf chose the former.

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A month later, he stood by then-President George W. Bush at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to declare Pakistan’s unwavering support to fight with the United States against “terrorism in all its forms wherever it exists.” Pakistan became a crucial transit point for NATO supplies headed to landlocked Afghanistan. The CIA also began flying armed Predator drones from Pakistan with Musharraf’s blessing, using an airstrip built by the founding president of the United Arab Emirates for falconing in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The program helped beat back the militants but saw over 400 strikes in Pakistan alone kill at least 2,366 people—including 245 civilians, according to the New America Foundation think tank. Read more about Musharraf here.

(More Pervez Musharraf stories.)

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