A green light to oust Al Qaeda
Bhutto's return to Pakistan signals a democratic alliance to attack the terrorist camps.
If the United States had a hand in Thursday's return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan, it was for good reason. Pakistan needs a new democratic alliance if it is to oust Al Qaeda and Taliban chieftains – and their terrorist training camps – from the tribal, mountainous areas.
Ms. Bhutto's return from eight years of exile came as the Pakistani Army began a new offensive in the largely lawless Waziristan provinces along the border with Afghanistan. The timing was not coincidental.
Such an aggressive operation indicates new confidence that an alliance between the popular Bhutto and Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can better stand up to domestic Islamic political foes who support Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
While a new civilian, democratic government may not be as stable as Mr. Musharraf's eight years of military rule, at least it may have more legitimacy to help make sure that Taliban-leaning officers in the Army carry out orders to attack Islamic militants. (The Army has suffered from defections of religious Sunnis and ethnic Pashtuns.) Before her return, Bhutto told Western diplomats of her resolve to fight terrorists, citing her record during her premiership.
Musharraf's recent political blunders forced him to reach out to Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, through distant negotiations helped along by American diplomats.
But another reason for pressing this alliance on him was heightened Western concern about his ability to oust Al Qaeda.