Islamabad, Pakistan (APE) – US Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Monday to invite Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf along on an impromptu Taliban hunt. The surprise stop was added to visits to Japan and Australia on an Asia tour undertaken by the vice president in which he rallied support for US policy for a surge of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vice president was reported to have indulged in his greatest passion, hunting, at each stop, with the surprise visit to Afghanistan being the culmination.
While Musharraf demurred on joining Cheney for the hunt, he reportedly allowed the vice president access to Taliban preserves and sanctuaries in northern Pakistan, and waved the customary limits and license requirements for Mr. Cheney.
President Bush had earlier sent a tough message to Musharraf insisting that if the vice president were not allowed access to the preferred hunting areas, there was a danger that the newly empowered Democratic Congress might cut off funding for Taliban preservation efforts established jointly by the two administrations.
White House sources speaking on condition of anonymity due to the highly sensitive security concerns involved stated that the vice president’s trip to the remote mountainous border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan had indeed been very fruitful, with Mr. Cheney reportedly bagging 24 Taliban from early Monday morning to approximately noon. No breakdown was available as to the makeup of kills in regards to men versus women and children.
The same White House source bristled at reports that the entire hunting trip had been staged, and that the majority of the vice president’s kills were of accused Taliban insurgents who had been drugged, released from captivity, and driven disoriented through a staged killing zone. “Of course there were others involved in the hunt,” said the White House source. “This is big game here, and the ultimate challenge, requiring highly coordinated teamwork. As to the drugging, come on. Take a look at the area all around the Taliban sanctuary… it’s the opium capital of the world. There’s no accounting for how people might like to experience their last moments of life.”
The White House did confirm rumors that a member of the hunting party had been inadvertently wounded, but refused to say whether it had been at the hands of the vice president, and that the name was being withheld prior to notification of the next of kin.