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.