Musharraf Suggests Pakistan Role in Iraq

ByABC News
June 24, 2003, 10:41 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, June 24 -- Fresh from his meeting with President Bush at Camp David, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sat down with ABCNEWS' Ted Koppel to recount the day's events and to discuss, among other things, possible Pakistani involvement in Iraq. Following is a transcript of the interview.

MR. KOPPEL: Did the president raise with you the question of sending Pakistani troops to Iraq?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: He did. He did talk of the Iraq dispute, and we did discuss Pakistan troops. In principle, we would agree, but we are looking at the modalities.

MR. KOPPEL: How many would you send if you send them and what purpose would they serve?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Two brigades have been asked till now.

MR. KOPPEL: That would be approximately how many men?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Maybe around 6- to 8,000, and up to a division maybe later. Pakistan can, yes, provide up to maybe 8- to 10,000, maybe up to about a division strength.

MR. KOPPEL: When you talk about the modalities, for example, would that mean that the United States would undertake the cost of those troops being in Iraq? Would that be one of the modalities?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Yes. One of the issues is certainly the financial package, because it wouldn't be fair to expect Pakistan itself to finance such a large force. The other is the political issues, which one is considering.

MR. KOPPEL: Is there any sense of discomfort on your part as the leader of a Muslim nation sending troops over, in effect, to control, for the time being, another Muslim nation?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: I would say it is a cause of concern, all right. That's why I said that we need to examine the modalities. The issue is not of controlling a Muslim state, but the issue is more the perception of the Muslim World, and we need to see whether if it can get United Nations cover or the OIC cover or maybe the GCC cover, that is what we are looking for.

MR. KOPPEL: So, in other words, you wouldn't want to send the troops over as Pakistani troops per se, but as Pakistani troops under a U.N. flag or a Gulf State flag?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Yes. Additional countries participating. This is one area we are examining, as I said....

MR. KOPPEL: As you look at how things have been going since the major combat in Iraq was over, give me your sense, both as the leader of a great Muslim state and as a military man yourself. What are the, what are the problems, what do you think are the great problems that the United States and its allies face in, in Iraq?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: I feel the problem is of governance, a breakdown, total collapse of governance. Since Iraq was administered through a strong dictatorial and autocratic regime, power is concentrated in one person. So, therefore, when that person leaves, there tends to be a total vacuum and a collapse of governance.

I feel the main problem is to establish some semblance of governance by the Iraqi people because governance can't be done by any non-Iraqi, extensively. You can be in focal points, but the Iraqis themselves have to govern themselves. That is the only way of making it successful....

The other issue is certainly political in that there are three major groups, the Shi'as in the South, and the Kurds in the North with implications on Iran, Syria, Turkey and then Sunnis in the center. This is another problem area where governance really will face some challenges.

MR. KOPPEL: When you talk to President Bush, do you get a sense of how long he thinks Paul Bremer, the administrator, is going to have to be the sole power in Iraq and how long it will be before the Iraqis are able to gather themselves in one fashion or another?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, we didn't go into such details of the governance in Iraq.

MR. KOPPEL: But do you have a feeling as to what would be a safe period? In other words, how long do you think the United States can continue to control Iraq before it becomes a huge problem?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Frankly, I'm a believer that one shouldn't lay time limits, even in Afghanistan. I always say we should be effect-oriented and not time-oriented. What we need to ensure is that the people of Iraq govern themselves. We must ensure the integrity of Iraq, territorial integrity of Iraq. And having brought about a stable government, only then should the forces leave. Otherwise one can end up in chaos there.

MR. KOPPEL: We just heard three senior U.S. senators who were in Baghdad over the weekend say very likely the United States will be there in force for the next three to five years. I know you don't want to put a time limit on it, but does that strike you as a dangerously long period of time?

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: Well, I wouldn't, again, as I said, lay time limits, but certainly, at the moment, one is not seeing short-term prospects of achieving whatever I said.