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Undisciplined U.S. Military Attack in Pakistan?Tim King Salem-News.com
Amid fierce resentment, a growing number of Pakistanis fear the U.S. may be losing its chance to secure peace in Afghanistan.
(SALEM) - 24 Pakistani troops were killed and 13 others injured in deadly airstrikes by U.S. and NATO forces on two of the country's military checkpoints Saturday.
Judy Woodruff with PBS, whose video report is posted below, reports that the strike threatens to deepen a growing divide between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Pakistan has already shut down the route through the Khyber Pass that is used to supply U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
China's Xinhua news agency, reports that lawyers in Pakistan's largest city of Karachi launched a strike on Monday to protest against the recent NATO attacks in the country's northwest region, which killed 24 Pakistani troops and wounded 13 others.
The lawyer strike Monday in Karachi is part of a national protest in Pakistan. Anger flared after the deadly air strike early Saturday morning that was conducted by NATO forces on not one, but two Pakistani army checkpoints located in the northwest tribal area bordering Afghanistan.
The Chinese are sending off political smoke signals, and protests throughout Pakistan raged today as people called out for the ousting of U.S. forces from Pakistan, which is an ally, not an enemy. It's also a country with nuclear arms.
In 1965, amidst skirmishes that led up to the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announced:
Their nuclear weapons program was underway by the early 1970's.
"They have reason to be furious that they have 24 soldiers that are dead, and that the ordinance that killed them was the ordinance of a partner," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Britain's ITV News.
Reuter's reported today that Dempsey said Pakistani anger was justified given the loss of life.
But he declined to offer an apology, saying during a trip to London that he did not know enough yet about the weekend incident and that there was a U.S. military investigation.
The general reportedly said he wants to "enlist their patience in helping us figure out what happened."
Statement from ISAF
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), was a quick to issue a press release after the reported incident.
ISAF reported that they are investigating the incident that occurred Saturday morning along the Afghanistan - Pakistan border.
"This incident has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts," said General John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force.
"My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan Security Forces who may have been killed or injured."
ISAF leadership say they remain committed to improving security relations with Pakistan, including coordination of operations along border regions in our united fight against terrorism.
Strikes May Have Been Mistaken Identity
The Associated Press reports that the weekend airstrikes likely were a result of mistaken identity.
The incident was the deadliest case of friendly fire with Pakistan since the Afghanistan war began, and has sent the perpetually difficult U.S.-Pakistan relationship into a tailspin.
Details about the raid are emerging, the deadly debacle apparently began after an attack on a U.S.-Afghan special operations team on the Afghan side of the border.
The response involved two helicopter gunships NATO gunships that were called out to attack the two Pakistani military posts.
The reason offered at this point by the western forces, is that they believed the Pakistani military posts were being used by the militants.
This is the same reasoning often used by Israel when attempting to justify military attacks civilian homes, schools and hospitals; they always claim that the enemy was using a particular building and that is why it was attacked.
U.S. officials are blaming the Taliban, exactly how that is possible is essentially unknown. An official told The AP that Taliban may have deliberately tried to provoke a cross-border firefight that would set back fragile partnerships between the U.S. and NATO forces and Pakistani soldiers at the ill-defined border.
Reaction from Pakistan
To say people are angry in Pakistan seems an understatement at this point. They were played the fool with the whole 'bin Laden' charade and Pakistan has been functioning as a pawn of the U.S. for a long time. However that time may have just come to a loud, smoky, screeching halt.
In a Pakistan Observer article titled: Pakistan Should Not Relent, Muhammad Jamil wrote:
Pakistan government reacted by closing down supply routes used for NATO forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, and asked the United States to vacate Shamsi airbase within a fortnight. The decision was taken in an emergency meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) in accordance with the resolution of the Joint Session of the Parliament dated 14th May 2011.
The committee decided that the government would revisit and undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence. The meeting also reiterated the nation’s resolve to safeguard Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity at all costs.
General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (اشفاق پرویز کیانی), the four-star General and Chief of Staff for Pakistan's Army who replaced General Pervez Musharraf in 2007, ordered that all necessary steps be taken for an effective response to what Muhammad Jamil describes as, such irresponsible acts from the U.S. and NATO. He says in Pakistan, one is not inclined to buy into the argument that attack on the border posts was a mere accident and not a deliberate act.
In fact Jamil writes about how those army posts are shown on NATO’s field maps, as these posts were set up to stop Pakistan Tehreek-i-Taliban militants, who under the NATO forces’ very noses in Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces launch deadly attacks on our security posts and civilian villages.
Pesh Valley/Pakistan Border
I don't know a lot about the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, but I did spend a few days there, in the Kunar province, while covering the Afghan war in 2007. The place is spooky. In the Pesh Valley there are frequent firefights; U.S. and Afghan forces are tightly bonded here, and they watch each other's backs. It's hard to know whether incidents like the one Saturday will in the end, severely undermine their efforts.
Jimal writes that Pakistan's government is to blame also, as it failed to take retaliatory steps in the past.
It is also true that the U.S. isn't killing Pakistani military for the first time, it happened in June 2008, when at least 11 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US air strike. Then there was the incident involving the deaths of two Pakistani nationals who were killed in broad daylight in Lahore. The suspect, CIA murder contractor Raymond Davis, was allowed to walk in spite of the evidence, and the implications. Of course the 2 May attack and raid at Abottabad by U.S. Navy SEAL's was something Pakistan failed to raise any serious objection to.
Jamil's article concluded with the strong conviction that no peace can be gained without the collective powers focusing on stabilizing Afghanistan, and also that Pakistan should pull back and withdraw the privileges it has allowed the U.S. government.
...it is obvious that the morale of the Taliban and other insurgent groups is high, and they increasingly view themselves as slowly and steadily moving closer to victory with each passing month. A total victory for the insurgent groups by overthrowing the Karzai government in Kabul may be unlikely because of presence of 150,000 American and NATO forces and equal number of Afghan forces. But after major part of American and NATO forces leave, there would be an all out war. If the US wants peace in Afghanistan and wants to have an honourable exit, there is indeed need to create an environment in which the regional countries, with honest and forthright participation of the U.S. and other global powers, set aside differences and work out a grand consensus for the purpose of stabilizing Afghanistan. So far as Pakistan is concerned, it should not allow resumption of supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan even if the US tenders an apology on the recent incident.
I strongly suggest reading the Pakistan Observer article to gain a sense of how people in this nuclear armed country view the weekend's violent developments.
Here is the video filed by Judy Woodruff:
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