US attack inside Pakistan threatens dangerous new war
By Peter Symonds
-- - A ground assault by US Special Forces troops on a
Pakistani village on Wednesday threatens to expand the
escalating Afghanistan war into its neighbour. Pakistan is
already confronting a virtual civil war in its tribal border
regions as the country’s military, under pressure from
Washington, seeks to crush Islamist militias supporting the
anti-occupation insurgency inside Afghanistan.
The attack, which left up to 20 civilians dead, marks a definite
escalation of US operations inside Pakistan. While US Predator
drones and war planes have been used previously to bomb targets,
Wednesday’s raid was the first clear case of an assault by
American ground troops inside Pakistani territory. The White
House and Pentagon have refused to comment on the incident but
various unnamed US officials have acknowledged to the media that
the raid took place and indicated that there could be more to
The attack was unprovoked. US troops landed by helicopter in the
village of Jalal Khei in South Waziristan at around 3 a.m. and
immediately targetted three houses. The engagement lasted for
about 30 minutes and left between 15 and 20 people dead,
including women and children.
A US official acknowledged to CNN that there may have been women
and children in the immediate vicinity but when the mission
began “everyone came out firing from the compound”. Even this
flimsy justification for a naked act of aggression is probably a
lie. “It was very terrible as all of the residents were killed
while asleep,” a villager Din Mohammad told the Pakistan-based
The newspaper provided details of the dead and injured: nine
family members of Faujan Wazir, including four women, two
children and three men; Faiz Mohammad Wazir, his wife and two
other family members; and Nazar Jan and his mother. Two other
members of Nazar Jan’s family were seriously wounded.
The US and international media have described the Angoor Adda
area around the village as “a known stronghold of the Taliban
and Al Qaeda” but offered no evidence to support the claim. A
villager, Jabbar Wazir, told the International News: “All of
those killed were poor farmers and had nothing to do with the
In comments to the International Herald Tribune, a senior
Pakistani official branded the raid a “cowboy action” that had
failed to capture or kill any senior Al Qaeda or Taliban leader.
“If they had gotten anyone big, they would be bragging about
it,” he commented.
The attack has provoked outrage in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign
Ministry issued a statement branding the attack as “a gross
violation of Pakistan territory” and summoned US ambassador Anne
Patterson to provide an explanation. North West Frontier
Province (NWFP) governor Owais Ahmed Ghani declared that “the
people expect that the armed forces of Pakistan would rise to
defend the sovereignty of the country”. He put the number killed
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the
raid was “completely counterproductive” and risked provoking an
uprising even among those tribesmen who have previously
supported the army’s operations in the border areas.
The International News reported: “Angry villagers later blocked
the main road between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Angoor Adda by
placing the bodies of their slain tribesmen on the road. They
chanted slogans against the US and NATO military authorities for
crossing the border without any provocation and killing innocent
The US raid has compounded the political crisis inside Pakistan,
where the selection of a new president is due to take place
tomorrow. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been
engaged in a delicate balancing act—continuing to support US
demands for a crackdown by the Pakistani military along the
border with Afghanistan, while trying to defuse widespread anger
and fend off accusations that it is a US puppet.
Reaffirming his support for the Bush administration’s bogus “war
on terror”, PPP presidential candidate Asif Ali Zardari declared
in a column in yesterday’s Washington Post: “We stand with the
United States, Britain, Spain and others who have been
attacked.” Zardari went on to promise that he would ensure that
Pakistani territory would not be used to launch raids on US and
NATO forces inside Afghanistan.
However, as PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar explained, the US
attack was politically compromising. “We have been very clear
that any action on this side of the border must be taken by
Pakistani forces themselves,” he told the Associated Press. “It
is very embarrassing for the government. The people will start
blaming the government of Pakistan.”
An expanded war
The decision to launch Wednesday’s attack was undoubtedly taken
at the top levels of the White House and Pentagon. As the New
York Times reported in articles earlier this year, a high-level
debate has been taking place in Washington over the use of US
Special Forces inside Pakistan as well as the intensification of
existing CIA operations, which include Predator missile strikes.
A meeting in early January involved Vice President Dick Cheney,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Joint Chiefs of Staff
chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and top national security and
intelligence officials advisers. According to the New York Times
on January 6, options discussed included “loosening restrictions
on the CIA to strike selected targets in Pakistan” and
operations involving US Special Operations forces, such as the
The Times reported on January 27 that then Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf rejected proposals put by US Director of
National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA Director Michael
Hayden for an expanded American combat presence in Pakistan,
either through covert CIA missions or joint operations with
Pakistani security forces. While apparently accepting the
refusal, the US intensified pressure on Pakistan to bring its
border areas under control.
As the anti-occupation insurgency has expanded in Afghanistan,
claiming a growing number of US and NATO casualties, Pakistan
has become a convenient scapegoat. Washington has repeatedly
accused the Pakistani military of failing to suppress Islamist
militia and alleged that Pakistani military intelligence is
actively supporting anti-US guerrillas inside Afghanistan.
Admiral Mullen has held five meetings since February with his
Pakistani counterpart, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,
to press for tougher action. The most recent took place last
weekend aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln,
stationed in the Arabian Sea. In comments to CNN, a US official
“declined to say” whether there were any new agreements for US
troops to operate inside Pakistani airspace or on the ground to
attack Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Whether the Pakistani military quietly approved Wednesday’s
attack or not, the Bush administration is making clear that it
intends to extend the war into Pakistan. Citing top American
officials, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that the
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 Defence Secretary Robert
Gates has been advocating for months within President George W.
Bush’s war council”.
This utterly reckless policy, which risks the eruption of a US
war against Pakistan, is bipartisan in character. In fact,
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has repeatedly
declared his support for broadening the “war on terror” through
unilateral US attacks on insurgents based inside Pakistan. His
candidacy has been strongly backed by sections of the US
establishment that have been critical of the Bush
administration’s invasion of Iraq for undermining US interests.
Far from opposing aggressive US military action, Obama has
become the political vehicle for shifting its focus to
Afghanistan and Pakistan as the means of advancing US strategic
interests in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The US attack on the village of Jalal Khei is another
demonstration that the shift in policy, with all its potentially
catastrophic consequences, is already underway.
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