Another day, another U.S. missile attack in Pakistan. On Friday, media outlets reported that five militants and seven civilians were killed near Miranshah in North Waziristan in a suspected U.S. drone attack. According to BBC News, “Early reports said all, or nearly all, of the dead were Taliban fighters killed by one missile. But later reports from the scene said missiles hit two buildings – in one, three women and two children were killed, and in the other seven Taliban militants died.” Friday’s attack was the fifth time since the beginning of this month that U.S. forces have carried out cross border strikes, [also see CHUP’s recent post]. It came just one day after the NY Times released a front-page story, reporting that President Bush secretly approved orders in July to allow [for the first time] American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government. [Image from BBC News]
Not surprisingly, Pakistani officials reacted with outrage to recent news of U.S. raids as well as to this new development. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Kayani released a rare statement “lashing out” at the United States. According to the Associated Press, Kayani on Wednesday, “in an unusually strong statement,” asserted that “a raid last week into Pakistan’s South Waziristan region killed innocent civilians and could backfire on the anti-terror allies.” He added, “Falling for short term gains while ignoring our long term interest is not the right way forward…To succeed, the Coalition would be required to display strategic patience and help the other side the way they want it, rather than adopting a unilateral approach.” [Image from Reuters]
According to BBC News, “Pakistan has said it will not allow foreign forces onto its territory and that it will vigorously protect its sovereignty. It says that cross border raids are not the best way of fighting the ‘war against terror.'” The country’s main opposition party, the PML-N, called on Pakistan’s parliament to meet in a joint session to devise a strategy to deal with these recent attacks. According to a separate AP piece, “Pakistani officials warn that the strikes — especially ones involving ground troops — will fan anti-American sentiment in the country and wreck efforts to win over moderate tribal leaders and bring economic development to the impoverished border region.”
Such sentiment was also voiced by Pakistan’s news media on Friday. In an editorial entitled, “Unwise U.S. Policy,” Dawn noted,
It is astonishing that America should fail to grasp what France has the good sense to appreciate. On Tuesday the French Foreign Office said attacks like the one by a drone in FATA on Monday caused human tragedies and undermined international efforts to fight terror.
The News, in their editorial, wrote:
Many [ordinary Pakistanis] — perhaps most — of them are strongly opposed to the spread of Talibanization and extremist influence across the country; people who may be described as ‘moderates’. Many of them have no sympathy for the mullahs and their burning of girls’ schools and their medieval mindset. But if you bomb a moderate sensibility often enough it has a tendency to lose its sense of objectivity…If America bombs moderate sensibilities often enough you may find that its actions are the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had…
This is a situation that is unlikely to bode well for U.S.-Pakistan relations. According to the aforementioned NY Times article, there is an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. An anonymous U.S. official told the news agency, “The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable…We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.” What is both disturbing and interesting is that this is the same “cowboy mentality” that exacerbated anti-American perceptions throughout the world in the first place. Although Washington says it is fighting a war for hearts and minds, it fails to comprehend the very premise behind such a notion. Unilateral, unauthorized operations may win some tangible battles, but are ultimately detrimental to the greater ideological war. It is surprising that after five years in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration still lacks the foresight necessary to realize the repurcussions of their actions.