Monday, March 3, 2008

Are we at war in Pakistan?

From the New York Times:

Missile Attack, Possibly by NATO, Kills 8 in Pakistan

NYT February 29, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Eight suspected Islamic militants, including four men of Middle Eastern origin and two from Central Asia, were killed early Thursday in a triple missile attack on a house used as a training facility in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a security official and residents said.

The missiles appeared to have been launched from territory controlled by NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan, the second deadly aerial strike in a month. Residents said three other occupants of the house were wounded in the strike, in the village of Kalosha in South Waziristan, one of the most restive tribal regions.

The security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job, said the dead had belonged to a little-known group affiliated with Al Qaeda, working under the name Abu Hamza.

Local residents said they had heard three loud explosions about 2 a.m. that destroyed the house. They said the three wounded occupants were from Turkmenistan.

They also said the house had belonged to Shero Wazir, an Ahmadzai Wazir tribesman who had rented it to an unidentified man of Arab nationality. They said they thought the launching site might have been an American NATO base in Machi Dat, just across the border in Afghanistan.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said they had no information about the attack. But this would not be the first time American-led NATO forces had launched missiles aimed at Qaeda and Taliban targets on the Pakistan side. ... (link)
Now the Asia Times' veteran Pakistan bureau correspondent:
Mar 1, 2008

Pakistan, US raise militant tempo
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - With the United States missile attack on an important Taliban compound in Azam Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal area in the early hours of Thursday, a new phase in the regional "war on terror" - joint Pakistan-North Atlantic Treaty Organization strikes - has begun.

The attack is also a stark reminder to the newly elected Pakistani politicians who recently put their weight firmly in favor of dialogue rather than military operations against militants. This underscores their limited role in the coming months in concentrating on domestic issues while the bigger battles are dealt with by NATO and the Pakistani military command.

The pre-dawn strike by an unmanned US Predator drone demolished a building, killing up to 12 suspected militants. Asia Times Online contacts in the area claim that the drone took off from Peshawar airfield, making it the first Pakistan-NATO military strike. ...

[Following an Asia Times report] the New York Times ran a similar story, saying that US officials had reached an understanding last month with Pakistan's leaders, including President Pervez Musharraf, of the need to intensify strikes against suspected militants using pilotless aircraft launched in Pakistan. Previously, such raids originated across the border in Afghanistan. Officially, Pakistan says it does not allow the US to operate on its territory. ... (link)
And the Guardian:
US to train Pakistan troops hunting militants

March 03 2008

The United States will send dozens of military advisers to Pakistan to train soldiers who are fighting extremist groups in the country's restive tribal areas, it emerged today, the first meaningful deployment of American troops in the country.

After weeks of negotiations between the US and Pakistan's new army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a squad of American trainers will arrive later this year to teach soldiers how to handle counter insurgency operations, rather than a conventional land war against India.

The trainers will focus on the Frontier Corps, a force of about 8,500 soldiers, drawn from tribal groups along the Afghan border. The majority of the Pakistani army comes from Punjab and is often regarded as a "foreign force" in the border region, which is dominated by Pashtuns.

Although the original plan sees a deployment that stretches until 2015, the current forecast is that the trainers will be in Pakistan for up to two years. Initially the US military advisers would not be allowed out of their training camps. However, a widely discussed 40-page memo circulating in Washington eventually sees US troops accompanying Pakistani soldiers on missions against the militants.

Pakistan has resisted the direct involvement of US troops inside the country, aware that it risks a stinging backlash from a public which sees troops taking the battle to their own people. ...

"They are making a big mistake. With the Frontier Corps they are going to put people to fight against their kith and kin. It will create a greater problem," said General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's spy agency.

"We need to sit down and talk to these people, they are our own. If we continue to fight a proxy war for the Americans we will end up with civil war or a revolution like they had in Iran." (link)

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