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Cablegate: Codel Feingold Meets with President Musharraf

VZCZCXRO4957
RR RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #1957/01 1491302
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 281302Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7113
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 8624
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 7978
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3291
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 9773
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 5512
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 4254
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 001957

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/28/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PINR ECON PK

SUBJECT: CODEL FEINGOLD MEETS WITH PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF

Classified by Ambassador Anne Patterson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: In a May 26 meeting with President Musharraf, Senator Russ Feingold discussed Pakistan's current political and economic climate as well as efforts to combat extremism in Pakistan. Describing his current personal status as "confused," Musharraf reported that he would not become a "useless President." Pledging to take a wait-and-see stance on the governing coalition, Musharraf expressed concern that the PPP-led government was politicizing economic and counter-terrorism issues. Referring to U.S. support as essential for success in the FATA, President Musharraf opined that the people of Pakistan do not support extremism and that increased economic development assistance could successfully wean local populations off support for jihadist groups. President Musharraf also asked the U.S. to put more pressure on India to negotiate over Kashmir, concluding that the time is ripe for resolution of the issue. End Summary.

2. (U) Senator Russ Feingold, his staff and the Ambassador met May 26 with President Musharraf at his office in Rawalpindi.

3. (C) Musharraf opened the meeting by noting that it is "never a dull moment in Pakistan" and emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship. Responding to the Senator's query on the status of the new government, Musharraf faulted the PPP-led government for not focusing enough attention on economic issues, particularly the rising cost of oil. The President commented that the Pakistani people are worried and confused about the downturn in Pakistan's economy and this uncertainty is damaging investor confidence, as evidenced by capital flight, the depreciation of the rupee and the recent downturn in Pakistani stock markets.

4. (C) Senator Feingold emphasized the importance that the U.S. places on Pakistan and asked Musharraf what role he is playing in the new coalition. Reporting that he will "take a back seat and watch" how the coalition functions, the President reiterated his desire to see the current government last its full five year term. He remained skeptical that this will occur, citing the PML-N's desire for power over stability as the likely cause of a coalition breakdown. Musharraf claimed to have a good relationship with the PPP leadership, despite "irresponsible statements that annoy and disappoint me." (Note: PPP co-Chairman Asif Zardari recently referred to Musharraf as a "relic" in media interviews, calling for this departure from the political scene. End Note.)

5. (C) Describing his own political future as "confused," Musharraf opined that he had three options: to remain President and play a constructive role in Pakistan, to continue to play a role but not as President, or to depart the scene entirely and play no role in Pakistani politics. "I cannot be a useless President," he continued, citing that his only goal was to put Pakistan on a fast track towards development. Musharraf denied that his personal ambitions played any role in his political decision making.

6. (C) Turning to the threat of terrorism and extremism, Senator Feingold expressed U.S. appreciation for Pakistan's actions to combat terrorism but remained concerned about cross border raids on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Musharraf emphasized that while the solution to the region's terror troubles remained in Afghanistan, he pledged that Pakistan has both a short term and long term strategy to counter extremism. While some groups are dedicated to Al Qaeda and global jihad, most people in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) do not support militancy and can be "weaned off" with greater socioeconomic and development assistance. The Awami National Party's (ANP) recent election victory in the NWFP proved that the people of Pakistan are politically moderate, Musharraf continued. Although he claimed not to be involved in recent peace deal negotiations, Musharraf warned that the new government was politicizing the issue of terrorism and urged them not to show leniency towards militant extremists.

7. (C) Referring to U.S. support as "essential" for success in the FATA, the President requested greater intelligence cooperation and asked for assistance in creating an enhanced surveillance capacity. He added that the U.S. needs to provide Pakistan with sophisticated technology to combat extremist groups: "give us Predators and we will attack the militants ourselves."

8. (C) Concluding the meeting with a discussion of India-Pakistan relations, Senator Feingold asked Musharraf whether he believed that Kashmir-based extremist groups were aligning with Al Qaeda. The President admitted that the Government of Pakistan (GOP) had "turned a blind eye" to indigenous Kashmiri groups in the past but were now

ISLAMABAD 00001957 002.2 OF 002

firmly committed to political dialogue with India. Musharraf reported that the GOP had shut down Kashmiri terror training camps in Pakistan, and that he considered himself a target of the remnants of these groups. The time is ripe for resolution of the Kashmir issue, Musharraf concluded, asking that the U.S. put more pressure on India to negotiate.

9. (U) CODEL Feingold did not clear this cable.

PATTERSON

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