As American tanks rumbled in to Baghdad on April 7, 2003, Iraqi InformationMinister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who became affectionately known as BaghdadBob, tried mightily to convince Western journalists to ignore the facts infront of their eyes. "I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad," he told reporters as American troops gathered a few hundred yardsaway. Later, he stated that American soldiers were "committing suicide by thehundreds on the gates of Baghdad," mere hours before coalition forces securedthe city.
Today,Baghdad Bob might have found a successor in the form of Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas,the director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations, which handles media relations for the Pakistani armed forces. In a recent Washington Post column, David Ignatius celebrated Pakistan's new determination in confronting the Taliban, quoting Abbas saying that the ongoing offensive in South Waziristan brings an end to the Pakistani government's thinking that "somehow we'll be able to manage them, co-opt them, bring them on board."
Statementslike that are music to American policymakers' ears. But somehow, it seems like we've heard all of this from General Abbas before. In less than two years, the general has provided the media with a fairly impressive list of promises, assertions, and projections -- none of which have more than a tenuous basis in reality. Here are a few of his greatest hits. But don't worry: We're sure that, this time, he means every word he says.
Sponsorship of the Taliban
Claim: In the recent Frontline documentary aired on Oct. 13, "Obama's War," a perplexed correspondent tried to get a straight answer from Major General Abbas. Is it true, he asked, that the Pakistani government knows where Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar and Siraj Haqqaniare located? But Abbas would not budge: "There is no truth in Mullah Omar and Siraj Haqqani remaining in Pakistan side of the border. I refute that. No one has shown any intelligence to the Pakistanis."
Taliban groups such as these, Abbas said, "operate from Afghanistan. If somebody claims that everything is happening from this side of the border, I am sorry, this is misplaced, and we refute it."
Reality: In 2008, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen traveled to Islamabad topresent the Pakistani government with evidence that elements of Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were supporting the Taliban. Mullen reportedly provided the Pakistani government with intercepted communications between the ISI and the Taliban to prove his point. "We spoke to, clearly, the ISI's relationship with various militant groups that they've had for some time," said Mullen in the same Frontline documentary. U.S. officials, from Barack Obama on down, have continued to emphasize Pakistan's role as an incubator of terrorist activities. Thepresident stated this past March: "Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that Al Qaida is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan."