Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

America takes the war deeper into Pakistan

October 4, 2010


One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward’s re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book “Obama’s Wars” is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.

Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?

Like much else, the administration debated long and hard just how far to push Pakistan to cracking down on the militants, some of whom it had spawned as assets in Aghanistan and as a front against its much bigger traditional enemy, India. One of those arguing for a tougher posture inside the administration was Dennis Blair, then the director of National Intelligence who thought there were just too many carrots being handed out and not enough sticks. He suggested the United States bomb targets inside Pakistan without seeking Islamabad’s approval. “I think Pakistan would be completely, completely pissed off and they would probably take actions against us … but they would probably adjust,” he once told Obama.

Josh Rogin, recounting the debate from a piece in Foreign Policy, said that Obama chose a less confrontational path toward Pakistan. A year later, patience is running out. Last week’s repeated incursions by NATO helicopters  from Afghanistan into Pakistan while pursuing militants seemed to signal a new, muscular strategy of the type Blair advocated.

Three Pakistani soldiers were killed in an attack by a NATO helicopter, triggering outrage and prompting authorities to close down a supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan. Trucks carrying fuel for the foreign troops were set on fire in southern Pakistan in apparent retaliation for the soldiers’ deaths, and on Monday, three guards were killed in an attack on tankers bound for Afghanistan in the nation’s capital.

By choking off NATO supplies, even temporarily, the Pakistanis are saying they have had enough, says Robert Haddick, editor of The Small Wars Journal. While NATO said the helicopter strikes were carried out in self-defense after cross-border firing and in line with the rules of engagement, Pakistan saw it as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty, which is already under sustained pressure from the United States.

For Pakistani officials, it became one slice of the salami too much. These officials have accustomed themselves to the CIA’s drone campaign inside Pakistan, a campaign that accelerated sharply in September. If U.S. policymakers thought they could get Pakistani officials to get accustomed to ever more aggressive air raids into the sanctuaries, Pakistan’s closure of the border is designed to bring those thoughts to an end.

Where do the two nations go from here? As Haddick noted, the drone campaign has already turned intense, with over 20 strikes in September, almost double the previous highest in January when the CIA vowed revenge for the attack on a post in Khost in eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan seems to have resigned itself to thes attacks by unmanned U.S. planes; there was hardly a protest at the sustained bombardment last month which was quite  a contrast from the time when people took to the streets each time a Hellfire missile was fired.

The worry, then, in Pakistan must be the more frequent these incursions become, the weaker the resistance over time. It’s a slippery slope. First the unmanned drones became part of the Pakistani landscape, hovering over its skies for hours and raining missiles. Then, manned incursions by helicopters, some of them as deep as 5 km inside Pakistani territory according to reports in the local newspapers. Tomorrow it could be small bands of troops or special forces crossing the border in “hot pursuit,” something no self-respecting army, least of all Pakistan’s professional army  can accept.

For, all this may eventually also play into what happens on Pakistan’s eastern flank where it confronts India’s huge military. If the U.S. and NATO can cross the border in hot pursuit and in line with the rules of engagement, what stops India from doing it next time there is a militant attack on its soil. Isn’t it going to be harder to hold them back if they want to go across the ceasefire line in Kashmir?


“India should help us out with North Waziristan.”

If you are an American then you are the craziest person in America. Have you gone nuts.

And if you are a Pakistani (highly unlikely) then I would say your request in innocent but very unacceptable to people in power inside Pakistan.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

“India should help us out with North Waziristan.”

India has no military alliance with any nation. Your illustrious allies should help you out.

Posted by trickey | Report as abusive

GW says:
“–>Khan, what do you think about Shiites and Ahmadiyas and other minorities getting killed in Pakistan?….if you think me a racist, I hate think what you call Sunni’s who commit these crimes against Shiites and other minorities.”

-}I dont think Shia Sunni Ahmadiyas thing related to ethnicity or race. I am very much against religious intolerance and killings which happen not only to shia sunny or ahmadia in pakistan but also to muslims and christians in india. And these are things that pakistanis and indians have exchanged thousand times on every internet forum or blog. You will finger point at my one weakness, i will reciprocate with 5 time more at your side. No one is perfect.Lets move on …

“admire Pashtoons for their toughness and fierceness of spirit, but there are many things lacking in that region, which make it a productive, cohesive, moderate and safe society.
Its the year 2010, the world is getting crowded all nations need to share with each other, take the best from each other, look at themselves and adopt things from each other, philosophies that improve the viability and advancement of the culture. IE…India has adopted much from the west..political structure, education, technology…In this regard, the Pashtoons are static….

–} I would just advice you to travel to city of Afghanistan like jalalabad and then compare it with your any city in regard of planning, then feel the difference. Then see how many of shopkeepers are sikh and hindu which will tell you many things about the culture and openess of pakhtoons. In peshawar every hakeem shop is possessed by a sikh. See any video of kabul or other city on youtube before the agression of USSR. You will not find any footpath life at that time and even now.Why not compare ourselves with china…
I hope one day you visit Afghanistan or KPK and see how they treat you in accrdance with their pakhtoonwali.

Posted by Khan | Report as abusive

Hurrah, Pakistan Govt. opens the Khyber pass gates for traffic. Great news, but the roads of Pakistan from Karachi to Torkham and beyond are now under the surveilance of the Pashtoons, so are the truckers. Now we shall see the burning of fuel tanks and the disappearance of NATO supplies on a more regular basis. Perhaps the highway police petrols would be required along the route similar to those in the USA, right upto Kabul. it is getting more interesting. A very slow death for the invaders in a Pashtoon style. The stakes have been raised for the mission impossible.
Rex Minor

Posted by rex Minor | Report as abusive

All the closed roads are open again!!!!!!!!!

Looks like the Americans has finally bribed right persons in Pakistan.

Posted by Mark T | Report as abusive

Why china is not helping Pakistan to fight this Pakistani Taliban and kashmiri freedom fighters? Given the size and power of Chinese military it can easily occupy Kashmir and give it Pakistan as a friendship gift. I don’t think India has or will have the capability to confront Chinese military. Then the USA and NATO will seriously reconsider attacking Pakistan.

Posted by Gul | Report as abusive

Why china is not helping Pakistan to fight this Pakistani Taliban and kashmiri freedom fighters? Given the size and power of Chinese military it can easily occupy Kashmir and give it Pakistan as a friendship gift. I don’t think India has or will have the capability to confront Chinese military. Then the USA and NATO will seriously reconsider attacking Pakistan.
- Posted by Gul

–>Silly Paks, thinks Chinese actually care about you, they care about their financial future more.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive


Chinese helping the Taliban means “Vietnam War” all over again for USA. That will definitely change everything.


Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

US_ NATO will never win the war as long as afghan neighbor did not want it happend. the are so many neighbour of afgan: rusia, china, iran, india, which of those country trully taliban defeated.
they security will be better as long as NATO and US tide up in afghan war.
Its your war, its the right of pakistan to choice what is good for his country.
Afghan is pakistan traditional ally, now and for the future, get involved in NATO_US war is not a good choice for pakistan.
Let the supply route open was a maximum support pakistan can give if they want, other wise the supply will stop again. invasion nto pakistan? do not think it, you can not afford it, because collonialism have dead and burried 65 years ago, and world will not let the zomby wake up again.

Posted by anto | Report as abusive

The Pashtoons do not need help from chinese. The chinese made klashnikovs are more accurate than the home made and are a great help for them. But the Americans do need chinese to solve their dispute with the North Koreans and the Iranians. The Americans would welcome help from any one to get them out of the current mess that they got into; even NATO countries have not beem of a great help. Few soldiers here and few somewhere in the north, Brits are the real pals ready to die with their Nepalese Gorkhas. Am I being unfair, then please tell us about the war the Americans have ever won on their own??
Rex Minor

Posted by rex Minor | Report as abusive

sure US can not endure peolong war in afghan. so it does not make sense if it will take deeper war in afghan. war with pakistan will danger 150.000 NATO troops in afghan. Pakistan will stay in his position now, will not involve directly in afghan war.
o, for west only peace will safe their ugly face from defeated in afghanistan. Netherland allready hands of from battle ground. France will bussy with it problem at home. British the strong ally now face difficult financial pobleem. FED now busssy with printing dollar which now sharply devaluated. gold vallue of dollar only half compare to its vallue 2 years ago. so what ??
west failed to recollonised afghan.
Obama will come to indonesia in november, i advice him to meet Yusuf Kalla, he have experience in bringing peace in aceh. as a muslim leader he can help you get out of afghan without loosing face.

Posted by anto | Report as abusive

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