Terrorists' Aim in Pakistan

TWO more American civilians were killed by terrorists in Pakistan this week. The attack comes soon after the slaying of journalist Daniel Pearl. Such killings, however, aren't just a signal to the US. They're also aimed at President Pervez Musharraf, who did a quick U-turn after Sept. 11 on Pakistan's past support for the Taliban and terrorist groups.

Pakistan has a history of intra-Muslim violence, and in the perverse logic of Al Qaeda and related groups, their ultimate goal is victory for their brand of Islam in the Muslim world. Killing Americans to agitate the US to overreact is a means to that end.

The US thus needs to be careful in how it reacts to the killings, and how it supports Mr. Musharraf's campaign against religious extremism.

The long-term goal is to ensure that Pakistan is no longer a haven for terrorists, as Afghanistan was. Musharraf's latest action – a plan to expel thousands of Arabs, Afghans, and other foreigners studying at Islamic religious schools – is a bold step in the right direction.

But like other reformist, secular leaders of Muslim countries, Musharraf must use hard and soft tactics.

He'll have difficulty directing his military to eliminate terrorists, as the same military – including Musharraf – once sought influence by supporting many terrorists.

The former general, who took power in a 1999 coup, must also somehow shift a largely lawless, poor nation toward democracy and prosperity, or else terrorists will still find a home there. The US should make sure Musharraf doesn't rig a presidential election in October. Dictators, while helpful in the short run, ultimately cause trouble later.

Mere expediency – by the US in supporting a dictator, and by Pakistani forces half-heartedly cracking down on terrorists – is not a foundation for peace. Pakistan's U-turn can't be sustained by relying only on the Pakistani military.

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