WEST PALM BEACH — Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf applauded President Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but said today that setting a timeline for their withdrawal is an "indication of weakness."
Musharraf, in the midst of a U.S. lecture tour, spoke today for about an hour to a crowd of more than 300 at a Kravis Center luncheon to raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County.
Musharraf was a general who seized power in a bloodless 1999 coup. As a Muslim critic of Islamist extremism whose country borders Afghanistan, he became a key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He resigned in 2008 under threat of impeachment and has since been living in London.
"We have to win" in Afghanistan, Musharraf said. "We have to defeat this. Losing and quitting is not an option. When we talk of quitting, we cannot make it time-related. It has to be effect-related...We ought to be there until we win."
Musharraf said the U.S. is distrusted in the Muslim world because it is seen as "totally pro-Israel." But he said Obama "has started on a very positive note in the Muslim world...I wish him well."
Musharraf called the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan "a very correct action," but criticized Obama's stated intention to begin withdrawing troops in mid-2011.
"We have to show a resolve, ladies and gentlemen, a resolve to fight and win," Musharraf said. "That is what will scare them. Otherwise, they will be encouraged....Please don't give an indication of weakness."
Musharraf said the U.S. has failed to reach out to Pashtuns, who are Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, and because of this "they have been actually pushed toward the Taliban."
He said a U.S. timetable for withdrawal makes the Pashtuns less likely to take sides against the Taliban.
Pakistan's ex-president: Afghanistan surge 'correct,' withdrawal plan is not