Several senior administration officials said that with each day that passed, more administration officials were coming around to the belief that General Musharraf’s days in power were numbered and that the United States should begin considering contingency plans, including reaching out to Pakistan’s generals.
More than a dozen officials in Washington and Islamabad from a number of countries spoke on condition of anonymity because of the fragility of Pakistan’s current political situation. The doubts that American officials voiced about whether General Musharraf could survive were more pointed than any public statements by the administration, and signaled declining American patience in advance of Mr. Negroponte’s trip.[...]
If General Musharraf is forced from power, they say, it would most likely be in a gentle push by fellow officers, who would try to install a civilian president and push for parliamentary elections to produce the next prime minister, perhaps even Ms. Bhutto, despite past strains between her and the military.
Many Western diplomats in Islamabad said they believed that even a flawed arrangement like that one was ultimately better than an oppressive and unpopular military dictatorship under General Musharraf.
Such a scenario would be a return to the diffuse and sometimes unwieldy democracy that Pakistan had in the 1990s before General Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup.
But the diplomats also warned that removing the general might not be that easy. Army generals are unlikely to move against General Musharraf unless certain “red lines” are crossed, such as countrywide political protests or a real threat of a cutoff of American military aid to Pakistan.
Since he invoked emergency powers on Nov. 3, General Musharraf has successfully used a huge security crackdown to block large-scale protests. Virtually all major opposition politicians have been detained, as well as 2,500 party workers, lawyers and human rights activists, and on Wednesday, a close aide to General Musharraf said the Pakistani leader remained convinced that emergency rule should continue.
Pakistan’s cadre of elite generals, called the corps commanders, have long been kingmakers inside the country. At the top of that cadre is Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General Musharraf’s designated successor as army chief. General Kayani is a moderate, pro-American infantry commander who is widely seen as commanding respect within the army and, within Western circles, as a potential alternative to General Musharraf.
General Kayani and other military leaders are widely believed to be eager to pull the army out of politics and focus its attention purely on securing the country.
And this from The News:
The US military has begun making contingency plans in case its supply lines to its forces in Afghanistan due to turmoil in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell also said the United States had no concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. "We believe they are under the appropriate control," he said.
He said that so far the political unrest has had no impact on the extensive US military supply operations in Pakistan.
But he said the supply lines were "a real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan because 75 percent of all our supplies in Afghanistan flow through or over Pakistan, including 40 percent of all fuel."
"There are efforts underway right now to figure out contingency supply lines to our troops in Afghanistan if it becomes necessary."