Dick Cheney's surprise visit to Pakistan today sends mixed signals about how the White House is handling its quasi-ally.
The issue first began last month when Democrat-lead House passed a bill which would restrict US aid to Pakistan if the Bush administration could not verify that Pakistan was making all possible efforts to thwart the Taliban operating the country (read the bill here). Today, Cheney tried to use this threat as leverage when full-court pressing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to, well, actually fight the Taliban (see an article on US spending in Pakistan here). But finally, White House Press Secretary oddly refused to outright support the VP, and even distanced himself from Cheney, saying, "President Musharraf is committed to winning this, and we are committed to working with him in this war on terror." (here)
The discord could simply be related to a lack of communication between Cheney's people and the White House or, due to the secrecy involved in the VP's trip, perhaps a leak of the meeting's talking points. Either way, it's an odd way to handle things (especially because it's not even clear that the Senate would choose to take up the resolution for debate).
The strangest aspect is that Cheney would actually threaten Musharraf that "the Democrats might cut off funding." Why use the threat if Cheney wouldn't support it? Would the administration personally not cut off funding if it had the choice? Are the Democrats some unstoppable, crazy force that the Pakistanis better get on board or who knows what those new nut jobs in the majority might do?!?! Cheney's looking for a way to force Musharraf into being more aggressive while trying to maintain the administration's personal relationship with Pervez. So they want to put the screws to him... but not too much. Push Musharraf too hard, and you might lose him altogether, so the best solution is to blame the Democrats.
The main US objection in all this is Musharraf's "truce" with the tribal elders in the Northwest Pakistani provinces, an area essentially still run by the Taliban. The unspoken deal is that Musharraf calls off the dogs and lets remaining Taliban elements survive relatively autonomously, and the Taliban won't bother the government.
How does this relate to Cheney (and House Dems) pushing Musharraf on terrorism? If you were Osama Bin Laden, where would you be hiding?