APPEASING THE EVIL-DOERS. Among the many nasty developments from which yesterday's speech by President George W. Bush has proved to be a distraction is the recent, uh hem, appeasement deal made by Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf with the resurgent Taliban. Musharraf is expected to visit the United States less than a week after it marks the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Just days before NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones called upon NATO nations to provide more troops for the alliance's intensifying conflict with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, Musharraf cut a truce deal with the Taliban, promising to move Pakistani troops out of the tribal areas in which al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban fighters have taken refuge, in exchange for a moratorium on Taliban attacks within Pakistan's borders.

In truth, Musharraf's balancing act between the demands of the United States for the apprehension of al-Qaeda figures and the pro-Taliban Pakistani intelligence officials who orchestrated the coup that brought him to power is quite a feat. It really is amazing that he hasn't yet been run out of Islamabad for his cooperation with the United States -- not that it couldn't still happen.

When news broke last month of the alleged al-Qaeda plot to blow up British airliners, I marveled over the depth of the PR campaign that promoted Pakistan's role in capturing suspects in the plot. A bit of cover, perhaps? Even as the president yesterday demanded tribunals for the al-Qaeda captives it has named in the 9-11 plot, the White House soft-pedaled Musharraf's deal with the Taliban. Who's weak on terror?

--Adele M. Stan