Brinksmanship Along the Durand Line (Updated)
Coalition forces based in Afghanistan have launched a raid across the Afghan-Pakistani border into South Waziristan where Taliban and Al Qaeda forces are believed to have taken refuge:
North West Frontier Province Governor Owais Ghani says three helicopter gunships and commandos based in Afghanistan raided homes in the Birmal area of South Waziristan, Wednesday morning.
The governor calls the operation “outrageous” and an assault on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Few details are known about the incident.
American officials in Pakistan and NATO officials in Afghanistan have not commented on the reported strike. People in the area say foreign commandos operated on the ground during the raid and were flown in and out by helicopter gunships. Pakistani media report some locals say the troops captured some people and took them away.
Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told reporters in Lahore that the country’s foreign office is investigating.
He says he does not have details. Mukthar says three houses were targeted by NATO forces and theorizes the strike had a specific target.
The wobbly character of Pakistan’s ruling coalition, the uncertainty following Pervez Musharraf’s resignation, and the political necessities within Pakistan all make this a very delicate time for relations among Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States. As if to emphasize that fragility it’s being reported that the Pakistani Prime Minister has just escaped an assassination attempt:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Snipers fired on the motorcade for Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday as it drove to the airport to pick up the premier, striking his car window at least twice, officials said.
Neither the prime minister nor his staff were in the vehicles, but the assassination attempt comes as Pakistan’s new civilian government — under pressure from American officials — is cracking down on Islamist militants after ousting U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf from the presidency.
At least two bullets hit the front window on the driver’s side of Yousuf Raza Gilani’s limousine on the main highway linking Islamabad with the nearby city of Rawalpindi, officials said.
If unapproved operations (or even operations with only tacit approval) bring Pakistan’s current government down, it could be succeeded by a government even less favorably disposed to uprooting the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or, worse, by chaos.
Pakistani officials are now saying that the attack was based on incorrect intelligence:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Suspected U.S. commandos blamed for killing 20 people in Pakistan were acting on faulty intelligence that was never shared with Pakistani forces inside the country, a Pakistani official said on Wednesday.
Nadeem Kiani, spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, told Reuters the predawn raid near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan in South Waziristan was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereign territory.
“The intelligence was not correct and the people who have been killed are unarmed civilians, not militants, and those include women and children,” Kiani said in an interview.
Mr. Kiani continued:
“Being an ally, any action taken on this side of the border should have been taken by Pakistani forces. There was a need to share that information with the Pakistani side,” he added.
No expansion on what the Pakistanis would have done had we shared the information with them and it had panned out.
But that’s the problem isn’t it? The American forces think that Pakistani intelligence is in cahoots with the Taliban. Either we accept the risk that the Pakistanis will alert those we’re trying to go after or we accept a heightened risk that we’re going after the wrong targets.
And once again, we end up following Obama’s heavily criticized positions on foreign policy, not McCain’s. Sure looks like the Bush Administration thinks Obama’s judgment is better.
I’m just pointing out the risks; I pointed them out when Obama advocated cross-border incursions and I’m pointing them out now.
Should I gather from your comment that you believe the Bush Administration is acting prudently?
Mine was a general comment, as Obama’s position on pursuing Al Qu’eda into Pakistan took a lot of criticism here. But yes, I think pursuing Al Qu’eda into Pakistan if the Pakistani government will not is the correct strategy.
I will add something I said a few years ago on another forum. When the AQ Khan network was discovered, I said that if I were the Administration, I would say to Musharraf that the price for having us forebear on prosecuting Khan was full cooperation in going after Al Qu’eda. Instead, Khan is still venerated in Pakistan and Al Qu’eda is still holed up in the Northwest Frontier. As so many other things the Bush Administration touched, we got the worst of both worlds. Call him the anti-Miley Cyrus.
Dan Said: Mine was a general comment, as Obama’s position on pursuing Al Qu’eda into Pakistan took a lot of criticism here. But yes, I think pursuing Al Qu’eda into Pakistan if the Pakistani government will not is the correct strategy.
Actually, the reason Obama’s position was attacked, at least by those knowledgeable and versed in foreign affairs, was that this was already US policy with regard to the country. Sen. Biden, among others pointed out, that what he took issue with, was with Sen. Obama telegraphing our actions to the enemy, and using it as a political talking point, when such talk could destabilize a government allied with us in Pakistan.
Yes, I know some others took issue with it by saying that Sen. Obama called for attacking our allies (i.e. Pakistan) while calling for peace with our enemies (i.e. Iran). But these were merely the know nothing talking heads.
As for Dave’s larger point, I think you are largely correct. Our raids into Pakistan reflect a failure of our counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan thus far. Part of that failure revolves around our seeming inability to recognize Pakistan’s security concerns in the country, and their fears regarding increasing Iranian and Indian influence in Kabul. This in addition to our failure to better address the increasing drug trade problem with better tools, other than spraying and poppy field eradication, which if anything have pushed subsistence farmers into the hands of the Taliban.
As you note, Dave, given the instability within Pakistan, the administration is risking a lot by engaging in cross border raids, but this may reflect their feeling that if the democratic government in Islamabad collapses, that General Kiyani will manage to take the reins. A huge risk, maybe, but it could be a calculated one.