Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre?

Saeed Qureshi  

Following the unwarranted missile firing by two NATO helicopters on Pakistani army posts in Kurram agency Waziristan, the situation has taken a very ugly and ominous turn. In what they claim as hot pursuit option of the militants, the NATO air force has arrogated itself the right to target even the Pakistani soldiers fighting on Pakistani soil in what ostensibly is NATO and American war.

While this is outright an egregious provocation, it lends a new grave dimension to the anti terrorism alliance between Pakistan and America a new bizarre twist. For Pakistan, there are two choices. She should either bear with this disgrace and willingly agree to be killed and come under wanton aerial bombing by the chasing NATO bombers or retaliate in a befitting manner. Being a world class and one of the finest armies, it would be difficult for Pakistan army command to swallow this insult and affront that could be repeated time and again.

The second course would be to withdraw, the Pakistan army from the embattled frontier and tribal regions to allow the NATO troops to deal with the insurgents directly. It is important to do so because NATO and particularly America is bent upon dealing severe blows to the insurgents and Taliban no matter it amounts to grave and naked violation of the territorial integrity of a country which is rendering huge sacrifices by fighting a proxy war for the foreign occupation forces stationed in Afghanistan. It is highly improbable that if NATO cannot succeed in a limited area of Afghanistan, how it can cope with a larger terrain.

Yet it clearly demonstrates that America and NATO are embracing a new strategy in their war again the militants in which the demarcation of boundaries and sanctity of the land do not hold any prominence. By that token, it would not be naïve to speculate that if the border regions of Pakistan can be bombed and intruded either by land or by air, the remaining territory of Pakistan can also be treated as a war zone for chasing the miscreants because there is every possibility of fleeing Taliban to spread across the land of Pakistan. Thus, they can also launch their forays against the NATO forces and retreat to save havens and sanctuaries interspersed all over Pakistan.

This overly alarming development has the seeds of pitting the two allies against each other. The Pakistan army’s top brass must be emergently seized of the freakish and sinister turn of the events and the changing paradigm of fighting and the latest tactics of the NATO forces for counter-terrorism. Hopefully, Pakistan army’s command would be able to persuade the NATO commanders not to indulge in such insane violations,, highly questionable conduct and desperate maneuvers that can deal a fatal blow to the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO in combating terrorism.

While Pakistan army would be mulling over the next step and is believed to be in consultation, it is laudable that the NATO supplies have been suspended by Pakistan as retaliation to this fiasco.

If NATO does not have the requisite intelligence that can differentiate between friends and foes and militants and the Pakistan army personnel, then this negligence assumed very intriguing dimensions. In the future too, every time the NATO bombers can cross over to Pakistan’s territory, indiscriminately shell the Pakistani soldiers, and then justify it as an act of self-defense. The logic of self-defense is tenable if Pakistan forces infiltrate all the way into the Afghan territory and attack the NATO troops. This is not self-defense and there is no precedent that you can trespass the terrain of a friendly country without giving prior information based on proper and credible intelligence.

The hamstrung government run by the spineless and titular rulers in Pakistan does not have enough courage and dignity to order shooting down the intruding aircrafts or helicopter gunships. If the invaders do not observe any rules of the game then why should Pakistan be imposed with an explanation which is downright audacious, unconvincing and an open declaration for doing such violations even for the future.

The crossing of the international borders and firing upon an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan is either a sign of desperation or willful attempt to give the message that NATO can extend its operations to the Pakistani territory. According to a Pakistan army spokesperson, Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers “retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory,”. “Instead of heading to the warning, helicopters went to fire two missiles, destroying the post. As a result, three FC soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and three have been injured.”

These patently provocative actions would erode whatever the support and sympathy America and her NATO allies have at the moment in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps as a retaliation that brazen misadventure by the NATO gunships, the NATO containers were torched at Shiakpur Pakistan  emanating a clear yet a portentous message that if such acts are repeated these can have their detrimental reactions in Pakistan’s mainland and perhaps elsewhere.

If United States thinks that the Pakistan’s territory should also be envisaged as the war theatre, a scenario that can prompt Pakistan to withdraw her troops from these war areas to leave the embattled terrain open to NATO and the insurgents, then it can be a good riddance by Pakistan army, fighting under duress. Or else Pakistan army can shoot down the intruding gunships, fight the land troops if these enter Pakistan’s territory and drive away or bring down drones by firing missiles at them.

This very horrendous projected situation neither suits Pakistan nor NATO and America. It would be, therefore, better if NATO leaves the military operations in the Pakistan’s territory to Pakistan army. They can continue focusing on Afghanistan as they are doing now. Pakistan indeed is a scapegoat in this so-called war against terrorism but there is a limit to find faults with such a trustworthy, competent, and brave ally as the Pakistan army is.

(The writer is a freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States).

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  • Laila  On October 1, 2010 at 6:04 am

    US will back down: Pakistani alliance too crucial to fail
    Is Pakistan America’s ally in the battle against terrorist groups, or a potential antagonist? That delicate question was in the air Thursday during a meeting with a senior official of the country’s fearsome spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.

    This has been a week when frustration on both sides boiled over. A new book by Bob Woodward, “Obama’s Wars,” quoted President Obama warning of a “cancer” of terrorism in Pakistan. U.S. drone attacks over the tribal areas were reported to be at a record level. And U.S. helicopters, which have been firing across the border in “hot pursuit” of insurgents, hit three Pakistani soldiers by mistake early Thursday. The Pakistanis responded by halting NATO supply trucks at the Khyber Pass.

    “Pakistan is not a walkover country,” warned the senior ISI official. If the United States continues its cross-border attacks, he said, “I will stand in the way of the convoys myself.”

    When one is thinking about Pakistan, it’s usually wise to look beyond public pronouncements. The friendship is always more guarded than it might appear in the good times, and rarely as bitter as the rhetorical volleys would suggest. There’s a core of mutual self-interest that normally guides the relationship.

    But, that said, the alliance is badly strained. The tension comes at a time when the Pakistani government faces a barrage of internal problems — a devastating flood, a collapsing economy, a terrorist insurgency and a political leadership preoccupied with factional squabbling and score-settling.

    This is a moment, in short, when cool heads would be useful in Washington and Islamabad. Too many more tugs on the Pakistani fabric and it’s going to rip — with consequences that are hard to predict.

    The senior ISI official met me at the agency’s headquarters, in a conference room down a corridor of black marble pillars and decorative fountains — an oddly elegant setting for an agency whose very name makes most Pakistanis nervous. The official began by noting one sign of continuing U.S.-Pakistani amity, which were the meetings this week between the agency’s chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

    The official said that the two spy chiefs had “discussed everything possible” and that the ISI leader had “reassured” Panetta of Pakistan’s “complete support for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan” and for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts at reconciliation.

    The ISI recognizes America’s mounting frustration over the Taliban’s use of sanctuaries in Pakistan, and the implicit American threat: You deal with the havens or we will. “We understand that this has to be handled,” the ISI official said. But he cautioned that because Pakistani forces are stretched so thin, a new offensive in North Waziristan won’t happen soon — which effectively means the sanctuaries will remain open.

    The ISI has privately backed the drone attacks, even though the Pakistani government publicly protests them. But the official cautioned that the recent barrage may be overkill. He said that by Pakistan’s count, of the 181 drone attacks since 2004, 75 have come in the past nine months. “The quality of the targets is not as good,” he said. “The perception is that you are trigger-happy.”

    Asked about American attempts to target the Haqqani network, a ruthless Taliban faction that in the past has had links with the ISI, the official seemed to give a green light: “I would be happy if they go today. It will end so much trouble for Pakistan.” But he said Pakistan would oppose any attempt to widen the so-called “box” within which Predator drones can strike targets.

    The ISI official was skeptical that the United States was making much military progress in Afghanistan. (“Is there a U.S. strategy?” he asked.) And he questioned the American premise that by killing enough insurgents, it could “bargain from strength” and force the Taliban into a settlement. He complained that the United States isn’t sharing its thoughts about reconciliation with the Taliban, even though Pakistan would be crucial in facilitating any deal. Privately, the ISI has argued that if America is serious about reconciliation, it should start with the Haqqanis, the hardest challenge.

    This week a bad dream seemed to be coming true, with an American helicopter killing Pakistani soldiers. “No Pakistani government or military leadership can survive” if it’s seen as a pushover for America, cautioned the ISI official. The anger on both sides is real. And yet top-level contacts continued, even as Pakistan was closing its border to U.S. transit.

    That’s the Pakistani-American paradox: No matter how furious they get, the two countries need each other, and never more than now. The U.S. and Pakistan: An alliance too crucial to fail By David Ignatius
    Friday, October 1, 2010.

  • Aquarias  On October 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I have been saying again and again , that we are behaving like the Trojans on the walls of the city , Jeering and feeling amused, by the Greeks . For the Americans ,We as a nation , or militarily , are no more than the red Indian tribes of the 19th century .While we are wishing for a General Custer, we do not even have a Geronimo, only a bunch of Mir Jaffers !
    As regards the Trojan horse , not just have one , we already have a stable full of them inside the country !!
    There is still time to negotiate , which we are not doing ………….let us ”Reflect soberly” .

  • Pagal  On October 1, 2010 at 7:00 am

    “The fact tht tribal areas are considered a lesser part of pakistan and the tribals are considered lesser pakistanis by people outside of the tribal belt is more worrying to me then NATO attacks on them”

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On October 1, 2010 at 10:06 am

    USA is no friend of Pakistan. It is purposely aggravating the situation and waiting to see Pakistani resolve and the limit they can go to. CIA initially started the drone attacks which this government had approved. Now they want to take the war into Pakistan, infuriate the population, and then see how the government responds. The spineless government will not respond but this time the limits have been crossed and the armed forces who must act in self defense and shoot down a few of these drones, which are sitting ducks if a fighter takes them on. A message has to be sent to these already defeated NATO forces who are on the run in any case. Let us not be so weak and let them get away this time. Take the example of North Korea who accept the combined challenge of USA, South Korea and Japan.

  • Zafar Akhtar  On October 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I think the situation will further aggrevate.It is definately alarming for Pakistan.The country should devise a new strategy to tackle the changed scenario but unfortunately our entire think tank are busy with judiciary,NRO etc and ignoring the most pressing issue of the country
    Zafar Akhtar

    • Chungoo  On October 1, 2010 at 10:49 am


  • Paul Wolf  On October 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Pakistan is the only country in the world where the idea of retreating would have any adherents. Defend your borders and don’t allow your country to be a NATO supply base. One reason Pakistan gets treated this way is that it never defends itself. It’s also a reason why so many people are revolting against the government.

    • pakpotpourri2  On October 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Dear Paul
      It is with great pleasure that I read your input.
      I am sure that readers here are familiar with your name.Yes,it’s Paul Wolf,renowned CNN host.
      I completely agree with you Paul in what you write. There are many Americans among my friends who support honesty and liberty and all the good values. It is this that reaffirms my confidence in the goodness of the American PEOPLE.

  • Inam Khan  On October 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Nato is frustrated………………..Inam Khan

  • pakpotpourri2  On October 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Pakistan to NATO: Apologize and pay compensation

    Islamabad, Oct 1: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday demanded that NATO forces in Afghanistan pay compensation or apologise for recent cross-border attacks, warning that his country would otherwise explore ‘other options’ to stop such border violations.

    Two helicopters entered Pakistani airspace Thursday and fired missiles at a border post manned by six soldiers, killing three of them and injuring the others.

    ‘If you (NATO) do not explain the incident and if you do not pay compensation or apologize, then we have other options and we will use them,’ Gilani told parliament.

    ‘Being a responsible nation we have conveyed our response through diplomatic and political means, but I assure the nation through this house that we will not allow any incursion into Pakistan,’ he said.

    It was the third cross-border incursion by international troops this month.

    Hours after the attack Pakistan stopped dozens of trucks and oil tankers carrying food and oil supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

    The international forces are highly dependent on Pakistan for supplies, as around 80 percent pass through Pakistan to reach landlocked Afghanistan.

    Pakistan is a major ally of the US-led forces in the fight against the Taliban-led insurgency.

    But analysts suspect Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is playing a double game by allowing the militants to sneak into Afghanistan.

    Western forces have long demanded to use the right of ‘hot pursuit’ against insurgents who return to Pakistani tribal areas after attacks in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan has declined, saying the mandate of international troops ends at the border and only Pakistani troops can take action against militants inside its territory. Pakistani PM seeks NATO apology for intrusion 2010-10-01 18:00:00 (DPA)

  • Wajahat  On October 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Exerpts on this matter on the National Public Radio in USA have hinted to the fact that Pakistan is in a difficult position trying to
    support the NATO efforts while refusing to bear down on the Tribal area with greater force. This frustration was demonstrated
    through the firing on Pakistani’s. Reading comments on this forum and then listening to NPR leads me ot believe. There is
    a major communication break down here. Perhpas a concentrated effort in airing the issues and getting some viable agreements
    carries a level of solution.

    Syed Wajahat Hussain

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On October 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I must commend Mr Wolf to advise us to react. If we continue to be weak they will push us to oblivion. It is time to give a solid and meaningful response.

  • KAMAL KHAN  On October 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    It is Quite Clear that they do. The Question is that Pakistan Army has Kept Quiet for Far too Long and have let this happen as NATO has been gaining tempo in doing this every passing day.
    The US congress has clearly stated that IF they feel they will even Invade Pakistan.

    Kamal Khan

  • Saeed Qureshi  On October 1, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I am convinced in my own mind that NATO is certainly pressuring Pakistan to extend her military operation to North Waziristan. The aerial attack in Kurram agency in Waziristan is one strong indication and perhaps a pre-emption by ISAF that ” if do not heed our advice or request or dictation, we are going to do this job ourselves”. As such, Pakistan is caught in a very unenviable rigmarole situation. If it goes ahead in North Waziristan, it might lose the gains that it has made already in South Waziristan, because of thinning of the troops and ill will of the local population.
    USA and NATO are unmindful that they are putting too much of burden on a country which is simply an ally and has joined the alliance under very trying conditions and threats from the American high ranking office holders. America and NATO must understand that this war is not Taliban versus Pakistan: it is Taliban/al-Qaida versus west. So to force Pakistan to take the role of a principal fighter against the terrorists is an unjustified demand from a country that is already wrecked by floods, internal chaos and dwindling economy.
    One aspect that the NATO command lost sight of that if they intrude into Pakistan’s territory and bomb the targets, their supply line can be choked and that is what happened as retaliation the other day in Shiakpur. My advice to NATO is: do not torment Pakistan too much and do not burden its army to the extent that it cannot deliver the onerous task in an effectual manner that it is doing now. Threats to Pakistan will not work even if you nuke Pakistan and take it back to Stone Age. There is a limit for Pakistan to oblige. And please do not show arrogance to a loyal ally: respecting it is a better and most pragmatic course.
    Saeed Qureshi

  • Fasih Bokhari  On October 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The over-riding strategic concern of a super power is to maintain its supremacy and not allow any lesser power to challenge that supremacy. America cannot allow a rampant China free rein. Containment of China is its core strategic imperative. Its strategy for China requires alliance with, and support of, India; that cannot itself challenge the superpower but has interest in containing the same adversaries. This makes America and India natural allies opposed to the China-Pakistan axis.
    America does not want an exit from its control of the heartland. It will use the WOT to justify it’s presence for many years to come. It will fund opposing forces in the WOT if need be, to keep alive the illusion of a war to defend America. The added benefit of the WOT is that pressure on Pakistan to “do more” in this war is destroying Pakistan’s economy and military capacity slowly. (Note that the WOT in Afghanistan is at a stand still and NATO is not told to “do more”). A head on clash with the Pakistan military before it is sufficiently softened would lead to losses that could not be stomached by the voting public in America.
    The containment of China and strengthening of India requires Pakistan to give up its postures on Nuclear, Kashmir, and Indian land access to Afghanistan (to complete encirclement of China). America cannot leave until Indian supremacy over Pakistan i.e. the China-Pakistan nexus is destroyed.
    American and Pakistani military and political interests are no longer in convergence.
    The American roll back from it’s current “Departments of Defense and State steered strategy”, will only be triggered by domestic political opposition. That opposition will increase when American puppets, in the our military and civilian centers of power, are removed; and America’s ability to replace them is denied; and a truly nationalist government is in place.
    The WOT must be stopped.
    Too little too late is a suicidal strategy for Pakistan.

  • anwer sultan kadri  On October 4, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Obama…..Robert Gates……..Hilary Clinton……Halbrooks……..Its time for you to realise that everything has a breaking point……Adm. Mullen…..Gen. Patreaus…..and whosoever is the NATO trigger happy gringo…..keep in mind that you want to go home on your feet not in a bodybag…….it would be a sad day….just dont let it happen.

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