Washington won't be particularly surprised at coming under fire in Islamabad, which has long been considered one of the most vulnerable U.S. diplomatic outposts; in fact, most American diplomatic personnel were evacuated from the country as a precaution before last year's cruise missile strikes on Bin Laden's Afghanistan camps. But the incident is a major challenge to the authority of General Parvez Musharraf, who has done his best to assure the West that his coup will stabilize Pakistan. Foreign observers had been uncertain of how Musharraf planned to deal with the country's fundamentalist movement and with the Taliban. But no military leader is likely to tolerate irregulars running around his capital firing rocket launchers, especially when they're biting the hand that feeds his country's aid-dependent economy. The rocket attacks may force Musharraf to act against Bin Laden, the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters, or else face being damned along with them.
Here comes a real test of the political stripe of Pakistan's new military government. At least five rockets were fired Friday in a coordinated attack on two U.S. facilities and a U.N. building in Islamabad. One person was slightly injured. And you don't have to look very far for suspects: America's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is still hiding just across the border in Afghanistan, and the attack occurred two days before U.N. sanctions take effect against that country for the refusal by its ruling Taliban movement to hand over the Saudi financier-terrorist. Pakistan has long been the Taliban's primary sponsor, and Bin Laden remains hugely popular with its large and growing Islamic fundamentalist movement.