Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
from Afghan Journal:
Pakistani army chief of staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani offered a rare apology at the weekend for a deadly air strike in the Khyber region in the northwest in which residents and local officials say at least 63 civilians were killed.
Tragically for the Pakistani military, most of the victims were members of a tribe that had stood up against the Taliban. Some of them were members of the army. Indeed as Dawn reported the first bomb was dropped on the house of a serving army officer, followed by another more devastating strike just when people rushed to the scene. Such actions defy description and an explanation is in order from those who ordered the assault, the newspaper said in an angry editorial.
But the question really is wasn't it coming? The counter-insurgency strategy that Pakistan has pursued to wrest control of its turbulent northwest along the border with Afghanistan has consisted of heavy use of air strikes and long range artillery barrages in the initial stages before putting boots on the ground.
It's the steam-roller approach that Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the century British Viceroy of India, spoke about when confronted with a similar challenge in Waziristan - except that it relies on stand-off weapons like releasing bombs from the safety of a jet aircraft to keep military casualties down, taking a leaf from the U.S. playbook in Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan-Pakistan is really the central front in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama kept saying throughout his campaign, and within hours of his famous victory, he seems to have been thrown a challenge.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said 40 people had been killed in a U.S. air strike in the southern province of Kandahar, most of whom were members of a wedding party, according to other officials. The Afghan leader, who is facing his own election next year, demanded that Obama stop the killings of civilians which this summer have mounted as overstretched U.S.-led coalition forces faced with a resurgent Taliban step up air strikes.
In the dying days of the Bush administration, the United States military has stepped up missile strikes by remotely piloted Predator aircraft against militants in the mountains of Pakistan.
The raids have become deeper – as much as 25 miles into Pakistani territory – and more targeted like the latest one in a compound in South Waziristan where militants had gathered to mourn the victims of a previous strike two days before.
A New York Times report about Pakistan threatening to postpone or cancel an American programme to train a paramilitary force because of last week’s U.S. air strikes has been widely picked up in the Pakistani media.
Eleven soldiers from the Frontier Corps died in those air strikes in the Mohmand agency in circumstances that remain unclear. But the U..S.-Pakistan alliance forged after the September 11 attacks has been deeply scarred as a result, says the report. It quotes former Pakistan Army chief General Jehangir Karamat as saying that the United States deliberately targeted Pakistani forces and that there had not been a statement from the United States that this was friendly fire and that the intention was not to attack Pakistani forces.
So which troops is Afghan President Hamid Karzai going to send to Pakistan to make good his threat to hunt Baitullah Mehsud and his men, and stop cross-border attacks? The Afghan National Army, the Afghan national police ? Aren’t they already too stretched trying to cope with the Taliban inside Afghanistan to worry about them across the border ?
Indeed Karzai spoke barely a couple of days after 1,150 prisoners, an estimated 400 of them militants, escaped Kandahar jail after it was stormed by the Taliban in what must be one of biggest jailbreaks, even by Afghan standards
Pakistan’s Frontier Corps soldiers and U.S. led coalition-led troops just over the ill-defined border in Afghanistan must have been barely a few hundred yards apart on Tuesday night when 11 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an air strike that has touched off a new row between the two allies.
But their accounts of what really happened in the frontier region of Mohmand are very different and sketchy, and to add to the confusion, there is a third version from the Pakistan Taliban.