Outrage in Pakistan as US Attack Kills 20
At approximately 3 AM this morning, US helicopters landed in a tiny village in South Waziristan, not far from the Afghanistan border. Troops emerged and opened fire on the villagers, killing at least 20 civilians according to North-West Frontier Province Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani. Governor Ghani condemned the attack as “cowardly” and urged the Pakistani military “to defend the sovereignty of the country” with a response to the attack.And while neither NATO or American spokesmen would comment officially on the incident, CNN quotes a senior US official as having confirmed the operation, which was reportedly linked to recent attacks on US troops in Afghanistan. The New York Times quotes another official who was briefed on the incident predicting that this “is perhaps a stepping up of activity against militants in sanctuaries in the tribal areas” and that there is potential for further such moves. NATO missile and artillery strikes against targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas are not uncommon, but this is the first confirmed operation involving US ground troops in Pakistan.Reaction from the Pakistani government has been universally negative. In addition to the harsh comments from Governor Ghani, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador Anne Patterson to lodge a formal protest against “the gross violation of Pakistan’s territory and immense loss of civilian life,” and they further warned that the action was “counter-productive”. Both houses of Pakistan’s parliament passed resolutions condemning the attack. Another spokesman from the Pakistani government confirmed that the operation occurred without coordination from Pakistan, and was based on faulty intelligence. But perhaps the harshest comments of all came from a Pakistani Military spokesman, who was quoted in the Pakistani media as saying there was no basis for the attack, and that Pakistan reserved the right to retaliate to protect its citizens.Tribesmen in the region launched a protest of their own in the wake of the attack, marching and chanting anti-American slogans. Ikram Sehgal, editor of the Defence Journal, is quoted as being surprised at the timing of the attack, which took place just three days before Pakistan’s presidential election. Pakistani Peoples Party candidate Asif Ali Zardari, long the clear front-runner, has in the past 10 days lost his party’s largest coalition partner, publicly clashed with members of his own party, and declared a ceasefire in a region where his government had loudly rejected a ceasefire just a week earlier, in a reported attempt to court votes from tribal area legislators. As this attack serves to further undermine his candidacy, he penned a column in this morning’s Washington Post in which he declared that he “stands with the United States” in its battle against terrorism, and predicted that his election on Saturday would ensure Pakistan’s victory over terrorism.Source
Pakistani parliament condemns US-led attack said to kill 15 people
NAHAL TOOSI – AP News
Sep 04, 2008 08:03 EST
Parliament passed resolutions Thursday condemning an American-led attack in Pakistani territory after the government summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest the unusually bold raid that officials say killed at least 15 people.
The criticism grew two days before Asif Ali Zardari is expected to be chosen as president in a vote by legislators. A spokesman said Zardari condemned Wednesday’s pre-dawn assault in the South Waziristan tribal region — the first known foreign ground assault in Pakistan against a Taliban haven. But Zardari also said Pakistan stands with the U.S. against international terrorism.Zardari, widower of former premier Benazir Bhutto, is expected to pursue a pro-U.S. policy similar to that of former President Pervez Musharraf and continue to go after Islamic militants accused of crossing into Afghanistan to attack the U.S.-led international security force there.An American official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of cross-border operations, confirmed to The Associated Press that U.S. troops conducted the raid about a mile from the Afghan border.It was unclear whether any extremist leader was killed or captured. Pakistan’s border region is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the attack, saying “no important terrorist or high-value target” was killed.”Innocent citizens, including women and children, have been targeted,” Qureshi said. The ministry’s spokesman said officials had no indication that U.S. forces had captured anyone.Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, citing witness and intelligence reports, said troops flew in on at least one big CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, blasted their way into several houses and gunned down men they found there.Army and intelligence officials as well as residents said 15 people died, while the provincial governor said 20 civilians, including women and children, were killed.Pakistan’s Senate and National Assembly passed resolutions Thursday condemning the attack.In the past, similar protests over suspected U.S. missile attacks in Pakistani territory have led to little tangible effect on America’s relationship with Pakistan, which has received billions of dollars from Washington for its aid in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.Still, the operation in South Waziristan’s Angoor Ada area threatened to complicate an already difficult relationship.U.S. commanders have been pushing Pakistan to root out militants. American officials say destroying militant sanctuaries in Pakistani tribal regions is key to defeating Taliban-led militants in Afghanistan, whose insurgency has strengthened every year since 2001, when the fundamentalist militia was ousted for harboring bin Laden.Suspected U.S. missile strikes killed at least two al-Qaida commanders this year in northwest Pakistan, angering many among the region’s fiercely independent tribes.In a sign of the complex nature of the situation along the porous border, a U.S. commander told the AP that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will step up offensive operations this winter because insurgents are increasingly staying in the country to prepare for spring attacks.Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser said 7,000 to 11,000 insurgents operate in the eastern part of Afghanistan that he oversees — a far higher estimate than given by previous U.S. commanders.He said the U.S. military realized more militants spent last winter in Afghanistan after speaking with elders and villagers who were pushed out of their homes. The spike in violence in the spring occurred because insurgents were already in position to unleash attacks, though U.S. officials did not know it at the time, he said.In Washington, some administration officials have pressed President Bush to direct U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be more aggressive in pursuing militants into Pakistan on foot as part of a proposed radical shift in regional counterterrorism strategy, the AP learned.In a column Thursday in The Washington Post, Zardari described global terrorism as chief among the challenges facing his country. The column mentioned an apparent assassination attempt Wednesday against Pakistan’s prime minister but did not refer to the earlier cross-border raid.”We stand with the United States, Britain, Spain and others who have been attacked,” wrote Zardari, whose wife was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack in December. “Fundamentally, however, the war we are fighting is our war. This battle is for Pakistan’s soul.”A lawmaker from the chief opposition party of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif blasted the U.S. for the attack.”The American war against terrorism has become a war against Pakistan,” Zafar Ali Shah said.In another sign of opposition to Zardari, lawyers in the capital, Islamabad, scuffled with police in a protest over his broken promise to quickly reinstate judges ousted by Musharraf.The circumstances of Wednesday’s raid remained unclear, but U.S. rules of engagement allow American troops to chase militants across the border into Pakistan’s tribal region when they are attacked. They may only go about six miles on the ground under normal circumstances. U.S. rules allow aircraft to go 10 miles into Pakistani air space.However, army spokesman Abbas said “hot pursuit” wasn’t an issue, calling the attack “completely unprovoked.” He said Pakistani troops were near the village and saw and heard nothing to suggest the U.S. forces were pursuing insurgents.He said the raid would undermine Pakistan’s efforts to isolate Islamic extremists.”We cannot afford a huge uprising at the level of tribe,” Abbas told the AP. “That would be completely counterproductive and doesn’t help the cause of fighting terrorism in the area.”Elsewhere in the volatile northwest, a firefight and airstrikes killed 37 Islamic militants Wednesday, officials said.___Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad and Stephen Graham contributed to this report.Source
Precursor to More War Crimes?
The September 3 Attack on Pakistan
By GARY LEUPP
In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, September 3, three U.S. helicopters carrying U.S. Special Operations Forces swooped down onto the Pakistani village of Musa Nika, in South Waziristan, killing fifteen to twenty people according to early reports. The U.S. press noted that this is the first known ground assault of U.S. troops in Pakistan. The provincial governor said twenty civilians including women and children were killed. The Foreign Minister denounced the attack, declaring that “no important terrorist or high-value target” was hit. The chief spokesman for the Pakistani Army registered its “strong objection.” Gen. Athar Abbas declared that the attack could provoke a general rebellion of local tribes against his government, and threaten NATO supply lines from Karachi into Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister angrily declared that “no important terrorist or high-value target” was hit. The U.S. ambassador was summoned to receive Islamabad’s official protest.This is heavy stuff. But this news got sidelined by the star coverage conferred by the mainstream media on Sarah Palin, whose ringing oration, dripping with ignorance and contempt for the world, brought down the house Wednesday night in that celebration of stupidity in St. Paul. That speech, authored by George W. Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully for whatever vice presidential candidate McCain selected, asserted among other things that Bush’s “surge” had prevented al-Qaeda from taking over Iraq. The message is clear: all U.S. military action is designed to protect the U.S. from al-Qaeda terror.Why would the mainstream media, pronouncing “a star is born,” want to highlight the little news story about remote Waziristan? Palin was splashed all over the front page of the Boston Globe on Thursday; the Pakistan story was on page A-3. On Friday a follow-up AP story made page A-26. It emphasized how the raid had “complicated life for presidential front-runner Asif Ali Zardari.”But this largely ignored event holds potentially horrifying significance. “Top American officials” have told the New York Times that this raid “could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President Bush’s war council.” The plan of course enjoys the support of John McCain, who never met a warlike action he didn’t like, as well as his opponent in the presidential race. Barack Obama has been saying for over a year that is the U.S. has “actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets” in Pakistan and the chance to hit them, it should do so. The hell with Pakistani sovereignty! Why should such a detail matter after “we were attacked”?Why should the outraged opposition of the Pakistani government constitute a major news story? Pakistan’s only a nuclear-armed Muslim country of 165 million people, which has at great cost to itself agreed—under duress, indeed the threat of being “bombed back into the Stone Age”—to abet U.S. objectives in neighboring Afghanistan. It’s just a country that having helped create and nurture the Taliban in order to stabilize Afghanistan, broke with that organization at the demand of the U.S. in 2001 and then found its frontier provinces flooded with Islamist militants fleeing across the border. According to a White House “fact sheet” issued in August 2007:
- Pakistan has worked closely with the United States to secure the arrest of terrorists like Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Abu Zubaydah, and Ramzi bin al Shibh. Pakistan has killed or captured hundreds of suspected and known terrorists, including Mullah Obaidullah, who ranked second in the Taliban hierarchy at the time of his capture.
- About 100,000 Pakistani troops are deployed in the region near the Afghan border, and hundreds of Pakistani security forces have given their lives in the battle to combat terrorism post-9/11.
- Pakistan provides vital logistical support to coalition forces in Afghanistan.
- President Musharraf has a comprehensive strategy that combines three critical components–strengthened governance, increased economic development, and improved security–aimed at eradicating extremism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
No government has provided more assistance to Washington as it pursues its goals in Southwest Asia. No country has been more dramatically destabilized as the price of its cooperation. But not only does the U.S. political class take this disasterous compliance for granted, it wants to further emphasize Islamabad’s irrelevance by attacking the border area at will. It insults the sensibilities of a population that holds bin Laden in far greater esteem than the U.S. president. It provokes the powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), originally the creation of the CIA, once a close partner with the U.S. in the project of destroying the secular pro-Soviet state that existed in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1993. (The ISI, a power unto itself, is already annoyed that Afghanistan, where anti-Indian Kashmiri jihadis used to hone their skills in training camps, has been cozying up to India.) Its embrace undermines any leader who seeks nationalist and religious credentials in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. “There’s potential to see more [attacks on Pakistan],” an unnamed U.S. official told the New York Times. Who do these people think they’re dealing with? It is one thing to ignore the government of Iraq, placed in power by the U.S. invasion, when it says no to a permanent U.S. military presence, U.S. forces’ immunity from Iraqi law, or the privatization of Iraq’s petroleum resources. It’s one thing to laugh at al-Maliki & Co. and say, “Well, they don’t mean that,” confident that they’ll eventually knuckle under. It’s another thing to suppose that the Pakistanis, when they say “No,” mean anything other than “No” and will simply burn with quiet resentment indefinitely as U.S. forces violate their sovereignty. But that sort of insane arrogance stems naturally from the post 9-11 “us vs. them” mentality of U.S. leaders. Not just the neocons, mind you, but the entire political mainstream.Pakistan, these leaders will note, is not doing enough to prevent militants from crossing over the border to attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. One should respond to this assertion with the following points:
- The U.S. is conflating Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. But these are not the same thing. (This is perhaps the most obvious but obviously neglected point of fact in the post 9-11 era.) The Taliban is an indigenous Afghan movement and–however unsavory–unquestionably enjoys a social base. Al-Qaeda is a mostly Arab force rooted in the U.S.-sponsored anti-Soviet Mujahadeen of the 1980s.
- Nobody in Afghanistan asked the U.S. to invade, bomb, or continue bombing Afghanistan for seven years. Nor did the Pakistanis.
- The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, against the advice and will of Pakistan, and the failure of that invasion to crush al-Qaeda, pushed al-Qaeda and Taliban forces into Pakistan. It’s likely the latter far outnumber the former.
- Pakistan’s government had never firmly controlled the frontier provinces or deployed large-scale military forces there in deference to the sensibilities of local tribes. Washington, oblivious to Pakistan’s realities, demanded that Islamabad suppress the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that fled into the region. In effect, it demanded that Pakistan clean up a mess that the U.S. invasion had created.
- Pakistan’s efforts to obey Washington have taken a terrible toll on the Pakistani Army, solidified local resistance to the central government, and in fact produced a Pakistani Taliban rooted in the local Pashtuns who identify with the Afghan Pashtuns and have no use for the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan drawn by colonialists who never consulted with them in drawing the map.
- Faced with the prospect of a general tribal-based rebellion, Islamabad has cut deals with local Taliban-linked groups. Washington has expressed its disapproval, claiming such deals continue to allow militants to cross back and forth across the border attacking its forces and their allies in Afghanistan. Washington is, in effect, asking Pakistan’s government to risk civil war and its own collapse to prevent Afghans from attacking its forces in Afghanistan whose deployment Pakistan opposed in the first place.
- Washington is saying to this nuclear power, Pakistan: “You must obey!” And some in Pakistan are saying: “You do not know this region. You’ve responded to 9-11 by lashing out in all directions, creating enemies you never had before. You created this problem, our headache, in Waziristan and adjoining regions. And you make it worse by saying that since we’re not handling it to your satisfaction, you’re going to start landing your troops in our villages, shooting on our civilians. And you’re expecting us to say, ‘Ok, no problem, boss?’ You’re crazy.”
It is crazy, even for a cocky hyper-imperialist power, to manifest such arrogance and contempt. Such attacks on Pakistan say to the Muslims of the world: “You are the problem and we reserve the right to slaughter you, because back home, we have powerful politicians who respond to a mass base that thinks fighting you all is, as Sarah Palin put it, ‘a task from God.’ (USA! USA! USA! USA!) If you don’t agree with our program to restructure your region, supporting our misogynistic fanatical Islamists in the Northern Alliance as opposed to the Taliban misogynistic fanatical Islamists you used to sponsor, we’ll invade you and take care of the problem ourselves. (USA! USA! USA! USA!) Get used to it. It’s not just the Bush crowd. We’ve got Obama on board now too. We will strike Pakistani targets as we see fit. Screw international law, which we invoke when it serves our needs and ignore when it might restrain us. Nobody is allowed to cross any border to attack our brave Americans, no matter where we invade, or why. Just accept that, world, and avoid our wrath. (USA! USA! USA!)”That’s indeed the message to Pakistan. If there were a free press in this country, honest education and genuine discussion, the people would recoil in horror from the crimes committed in their name and the premises—largely lies—behind those crimes. But we have none of that, just some posts on the internet. The outlook is grim.Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Religion. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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