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Context of 'Late 2001: President Bush Fails to Fund Program to Reform Radical Islamist Boarding Schools in Pakistan'

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Wayne Downing.Wayne Downing. [Source: US Army]Wayne Downing, a retired Army general who recently replaced Richard Clarke as the White House counterterrorism “tsar,” is drawing up plans for a US takeover of Iraq on his own initiative. (Kessler 1/12/2003 Sources: Unnamed senior administration official) Downing, who had previously been an adviser to the Iraqi National Congress (INC) exile group, is said to favor a rebellion more than a US military invasion, similar to a plan he drew up in 1998 (see July 1998). (Horrock and Lake 6/27/2002)

Not long after 9/11, US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin proposes a substitute for the mostly private funding of madrassas [religious boarding schools] in Pakistan. There are over 10,000 madrassas in that country, and many of them teach a radical form of Islam that promotes Islamist militancy. Counterterrorism “tsar” Wayne Downing supports Chamberlin’s idea, and says the madrassa system is “the root of many of the recruits for the Islamist movement.” In early 2001, the Pakistani government approved a plan that would require the completely unregulated madrassas to register with the government for the first time, halt all funding from abroad (which often comes from militant supporters in Saudi Arabia), and modify their curricula to teach modern subjects such as math, science, and history. However, Pakistan lacks the money for an education system to replace the madrassas. In late 2001, President Bush promises Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that he will fund a $300 million education plan. But the plan does not survive the White House budget request that year. The madrassas are not reformed in any way—even the plan to have them register is dropped. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The US State Department and USAID maintained the charade that Pakistan was actively carrying out reforms.” (Gellman and Linzer 10/22/2004; Rashid 2008, pp. 235-236)

The US strikes a secret deal with Pakistan, allowing a US operation in Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. This will be reported by the Guardian shortly after bin Laden is killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011). The Guardian will claim this account is “according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.” The deal is struck between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and US President George W. Bush shortly after bin Laden escapes the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in December 2001 (see December 15, 2001). At the time, it is widely believed bin Laden escaped into Pakistan. The deal allows the US to conduct their own raids inside Pakistan if the target is bin Laden, al-Qaeda deputy head Ayman al-Zawahiri, or whoever the number three al-Qaeda leader is. Afterwards, Pakistan would vigorously protest, but this would just be to mollify public opinion. An unnamed senior Pakistani official will later say that the deal is reaffirmed in early 2008, when Musharraf’s grip on power is slipping. (Musharraf will resign in August 2008 (see August 18, 2008).) This same Pakistani official will say of the May 2011 US Special Forces raid that kills bin Laden in Pakistan, “As far as our American friends are concerned, they have just implemented the agreement.” (Walsh 5/9/2011)

By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and CIA Director George Tenet have all resigned, leaving the Bush administration without any senior officials who have a close relationship with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Previously, these three officials had been pressing Musharraf to take stronger action against the al-Qaeda and Taliban safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region. With them gone, President Bush is the one who is supposed to raise the issue in regular phone calls to Musharraf. But in June 2008, two former US officials will say that the conversations backfire. Instead of demanding more action from Musharraf, Bush repeatedly thanks him for his contributions to the war on terrorism, actually reducing the pressure on him. One former official who saw transcripts of the conversations says, “He never pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘Pervez, you have to do this.’” The Bush administration will deny it failed to sufficiently pressure Musharraf. (Mazetti and Rohde 6/30/2008)


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