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History As It Happens

Feb 14, 2023

Most Americans hadn’t seen or heard the name of former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf for many years before news broke of his death earlier this month. Musharraf had been ill, living a quiet existence in self-imposed exile in Dubai, a long way in space and time from his once esteemed position as an important U.S. ally in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Musharraf’s reluctant embrace of the U.S. war helped lead to his downfall, as it riled segments of Pakistan’s population of fundamentalist Islamists who opposed helping the U.S. oust the Taliban from Kabul. As the backlash to his policies escalated, Musharraf became increasingly despotic, ultimately suspending the Pakistani constitution and imposing emergency rule in 2007. In this episode, New America national security expert Peter Bergen discusses the legacy of a ruler who, after coming to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, relented to U.S. "with us or against us" ultimatums. In the end, American interests could never align with Pakistan's strategy of backing a Pashtun force in Afghanistan for strategic depth against India.