U.S. ground raids into Pakistan halted, Army Times says

September 30, 2008

Pakistani troops patrol in BajaurThe United States has decided to halt cross-border ground raids by Special Ops forces into Pakistan, according to the U.S. Army Times. It quotes a Pentagon official as saying U.S. leaders had decided to hold off on permitting ground raids to allow Pakistani forces to press home their own attacks on militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those type of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” it quotes the Pentagon official as saying. This did not apply to air strikes launched from Predator drones.

The article is well worth a read for its explanation of why the United States backed off after making a controversial cross-border ground raid on the village of Angor Adda earlier this month. The raid represented “a strategic miscalculation”, it quoted a U.S. government official as saying. “We did not fully appreciate the vehemence of the Pakistani response,” which included a threat to cut supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan. “I don’t think we really believed it was going to go to that level,” the official said.

File photo of Taliban fighterI’d also recommend the lower part of the article as it gives a wealth of detail about who it thinks is being targeted in Pakistan right now, including the networks of Islamist leaders Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, both veterans of the campaign against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, it says there has been no U.S. Special Ops activity in areas around the sanctuary of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, believed to be hiding in or near the Pakistani city of Quetta in Balochistan. ”It’s all happening in the tribal areas,” it quotes a civilian expert on Afghanistan as saying. “The target has not been the Omar Taliban.”

That’s probably just a coincidence of geography – targeting Quetta would involve striking much more deeply into Pakistan. But it does make you wonder whether it could have an impact on any attempt to draw parts of the Taliban into peace talks, an idea most recently explored by The Observer newspaper in Britain.  The logic for peace talks, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is that the Taliban, or parts of it, are essentially an ethnic nationalist Pashtun movement which could be won over, and separated from its allies in al Qaeda, by offering it a share of power in Kabul.  Food for thought.



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