VIDEO & The United States will soon begin its draw down from Afghanistan. And as that happens, greater and greater attention will be focused on next-door neighbor Pakistan. That is where much of what remains of al Qaeda's leadership lives. And it is, of course, a nuclear nation that is in terrible turmoil, filled with bombings, assassinations and what often seems like just chaos.
To talk about it all, I was joined on Sunday by the finest journalist writing in Pakistan today, Ahmed Rashid. Here's a lightly edited transcript of our interview:
Fareed Zakaria: Ahmed, the latest news out of Peshawar, this female suicide bomber wearing a veil detonates herself. Even for Pakistan this is unusual.
Ahmed Rashid: This is very unusual. We've had one or two female suicide bombers, but they've been Chechens or Central Asians. This is the first time that I know of a Pakistani woman, a young woman becoming a suicide bomber in the center of Peshawar - one of the largest cities in the country. This is very much a new development.
Fareed Zakaria: Do you look at what's going on right now and feel as though there is some kind of system in place to deal with this rising militancy? Is the army now finally mobilized? Is the political class mobilized?
Ahmed Rashid: I think, Fareed, on the country. What we've seen in the last couple of months since the killing of Osama Bin Laden is a real meltdown. The army has felt humiliated, embarrassed and demoralized to some extent. The politicians have kind of abandoned the scene and told the army, "You sort it out; this is not our problem."
There's a huge rift between the government and the army and the Americans. And that is, of course, affecting economic confidence, because we have no deal with the IMF nor the World Bank nor any of the usual big donors who should be giving money or pledging some kind of funding to Pakistan at this stage.
So there are a whole raft of issues that have arisen. which are worrying people enormously.
Fareed Zakaria: Let's talk about the rift between Pakistan and the U.S. Of course, the most recent bout of it stems from the Osama bin Laden shootings. What is the civilian government doing? What is the army doing?
Ahmed Rashid: Well, you know, first of all, this has been building up for quite some time. But the real icing on the cake has been the death of Osama bin Laden, because that is an operation carried out I think largely without Pakistani knowledge or involvement.
And the army did feel very embarrassed and humiliated. And that, of course, has created this wave of anti-Americanism, both in the public and in the army and has forced General Kayani, the Army Chief, to also show a very hard line towards the Americans. And at the moment we have a complete breakdown.
Now, in the midst of this, President Zardari has kind of abandoned the stage. We haven't seen an
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