This is going to get even uglier.

According to the UK’s Guardian, Western officials have stated that the NATO air attack that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was an act of self-defense. Some very interesting comments from that story:

…a more troubling explanation would be that insurgents in the area were operating under the nose of Pakistani security forces. Many Afghan officials believe Pakistan helps the Taliban with cross-border operations.

Edrees Momand of the Afghan Border Police said that a US-Afghan force in the area near the Pakistani outposts detained several militants on Saturday morning.

“I am not aware of the casualties on the other side of the border but those we have detained aren’t Afghan Taliban,” he said, implying they may have been Pakistani or other foreign national Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s consistent inconsistency has been a problem. The US has long suspected Pakistan of playing both ends against the middle as a US “ally” in the War on Terror. Its Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, and its military, are a virtual stadt im stadt, and have aided Taliban and Al Qaeda efforts in Afghanistan for an entire decade. They have been linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, and to the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul in September of this year. CJCS Admiral Mullen called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of ISI. It is highly probable that Usama bin Laden had been under the protection of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus since being whisked from Tora Bora in the last days of 2001, safely tucked away for most of that time in his Abottabad compound not two miles from Pakistan’s Military Academy.

It seems very unlikely that the air strikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers were authorized without a US terminal controller with eyes on the targets, and without those targets actively engaging US and Afghan forces along the border area. US commanders understand the sensitivity of the Pakistan problem along the poorly-defined Afghan border, and the restrictive (many say overly restrictive) ROE for CAS make the chance that the strikes were a colossal error by NATO forces a rather low probability. If such was the case, we will know soon enough. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that any Western officials would talk about such events as self-defense unless the picture of what happened was sufficiently clear to merit such a comment.

Pakistan’s version of events, that the Pakistani outposts were defending themselves from attack (“unprovoked and indiscriminate firing” by US aircraft), might hold more water without the deep US suspicions of ISI support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or the rather implausible denials of hiding and protecting Usama bin Laden, and the categorical disavowing of involvement in the Mumbai attacks and the day-long assault on the US Embassy and other targets in Kabul.

Pakistan’s strategic location, and its substantial nuclear arsenal, make its fate an important consideration to the US. Its demand of evacuation of the air base at Shamsi, and the temporary closing of the border crossings, will be inconvenient but not crippling to ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. How long Pakistan remains a vital “ally” is open to question, as is the limit of US patience with the Zardari government, and its seeming lack of control over its Military Intelligence organization.

As the facts from this incident emerge, we will likely see more evidence of Pakistan’s aid and support to Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. And likely, more vehement denials on the part of the Pakistani government regarding provision of aid and support to US enemies in Afghanistan.

Whether they are any more believable than those of recent vintage remains to be seen.


Interesting developments.


It seems Pakistan no longer wishes “business as usual” with the United States. I do hope that includes eliminating the nearly $3 billion in US aid that can be put toward the US budget crisis instead of sending it as foreign aid to an “ally” who provides material support to America’s enemies and harbors terrorists. Perhaps the Pakistani Military may find itself in a different “transactional relationship” vis a vis the United States. The flow of military hardware may arrive business-end first.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Marine Corps, Navy

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Jay

    Troubling, but not surprising. Good article re: Pakistan in the most recent Atlantic – “The Ally From Hell”. Succinct title.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Speaking of getting uglier (more ugly?) – it looks like USS Bush has finally gotten the heads fixed:

    Some one may soon be getting coal in their stocking.

    – Kyon

  • UltimaRatioReg
  • Matt Yankee

    The PBS Frontline documentary about David Headley is very interesting…and jaw dropping. This cream of the crop Pakistani with one blue eye, held hands with the ISI and Al Qaeda as he planned the Mumbai Attack and another that was every bit as horrific but never happened. Headley is in our hands and talking but the world will not know the real story of ISI and Al Qaeda for some time to come.

    And I did read we captured a couple of Paki Taliban from this little dust up also.

  • Matt Yankee

    Business end by the dump truck loads I hope…if ever there was an enemy to destroy with every available weapon this is he.

    At least start with calling a spade a spade and list Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror. Like what James Baker threatened to do three decades ago when we knew they were training terrorists even then.

  • Jay

    And listing Pakistan as a state sponsor would get us…what again? Would that assist us in our efforts in Afghanistan? Not at all. Push elements in Pakistan to thinking we are more allied with India than they already do? Also not helpful. Would you advocate us ending our billions of funding provided annually to the Pakistani military and end those relationships? Does that really make sense? If one thing the post Soviet pull-out during the Reagan years should have taught us – we need to remain engaged in this area. Listing Pakistan as you propose would hamper our goals.

  • Matt Yankee

    I understand we have 140,000 people in Afghanistan to support. Obviously they come first. But I would imagine most of those people would believe they are in a war and wars are either won or lost. The way to win this war is to defeat the leadership of the enemy which is the Pakistani Army. This is why Karzai has said we must talk to the Pak Army in order to negotiate with the enemy.

    Haven’t we had a better “engagement” with the govts. of Japan and Germany after they were beaten to a pulp and forced to accept unconditional surrender?

    We basicly believed Pakistan was defeated because they accepted Dick Armitage’s ultimatum at the start of this whole mess. But that was a lie as all know now and so you must follow through with his threat. What would’ve happened to the world if American deterrence was proved to be a bluff during the cold war? Hard choices must be made. I just hope we choose American security over Pakistani security.

  • Matt Yankee

    Listing them as state sponsors might have helped before 9/11 but not at this point. Just saw that Baker had threatened to list them 30 yrs ago…thought that was interesting we barked instead of biting then and where did it lead?

    They sacked the ISI chief as a result…they do just enough to pacifiy us.

    Daud Gilani aka. David Headly did exactly the same thing to the DEA and CIA when they confonted him about Jihad after 9/11. He denied his beliefs and told them what they wanted to hear. Everyone now knows he was a double agent. The entire Pak Army should be considered a double agent. What do we do to double agents? Fool me once shame on you…fool me twice shame on me.

  • Jay

    Matt – unsure if you realize what you appear to be saying, so, I’ll ask – are you advocating we strike and/or invade Pakistan? Are you advocating we take out the Pakistani Armed Forces? Or do you think – if we cripple/remove their nuke capability, that is enough? (your Japan and Germany analogy leads me to think that wouldn’t be enough for you) – but before you type your response – have you really thought through the 2nd and 3rd order effects, and the really big potential of unintended negative consequences?

    Unsure why you say anyone thought Pakistan was defeated just because we got some cooperation after 9/11.

    Wars are not only won or lost, sometimes there is stalemate.

  • Matt Yankee

    Jay- Remember Armitage’s ultimatum… If you caused an enemy to submit and become an ally you have defeated that enemy. Unless he lies that is.

    The “some cooperation” is a vital part of our war…the supply network without which we never would’ve gone in like we have. And the main reason we don’t confront Pakistan to this day, I suppose.

    So now that everyone knows they do still support the Taliban and many more groups including the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda they have reneged on their word.

    So I make the Japan comparison because we face a similar situation. We have been attacked be these people on 9/11 and more recently another very close call in Times Square. These attacks like Pearl Harbor cannot be tolerated. We do not have the resources presently to invade Pakistan, somewhat like the big island of Japan. So I think we should mass the navy offshore and deliver strike after strike until their Army Chief is willing to come aboard a carrier and sign an unconditional surrender whereby Pakisitan gives up their nukes, and disarms the armed forces exactly like what we forced on Japan. After surrender we would send an occupation force. The occupation specifics need serious contemplating, by professionals, but can be achieved. I would give the whole country back to India. They certainly have the capacity.

    If the Pakistanis eventually give one of their terror orgs a nuke you will be contemplating exactly what I’m talking about so you might as well get on with it. If you disagree what do you think we would do if another Times Square attack involved WMDs and we knew they came from the Pak Army?

    Second and third order affects that don’t affect the security of the US don’t matter. The first order affect of not dealing with them is imminent and perpetual attacks leading to perhaps more devastating attacks in the future. One second order affect which is in the interests of the US is to permanently end the India-Paksitan cold war and allow India to concentrate on China.

    Stalemates? Come on. Name me one war where we reached a “stalemate” when looking at history. I know we didn’t get unconditional surrenders out of every war but for each war do we or do we not have the “spoils”… in the ROK, Japan, Germany, Kuwait…Saigon on the other hand is called? If we leave Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan the same Jihadis will win the spoils, and their methods will be justified in their eyes.

    The solution to most hard problems is exactly what you least want to do…for me the fact that you really don’t want to confront Pakistan means that is exactly what we should do (current leadership agrees with you). Sherman said in the Civil War “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” Terrorism is cruelty but the sooner we turn our own methods of cruelty (much more potent) onto those who would subject the US to such, the sooner we will end it. How have we been cruel to Pakistan? Have they not subjected us to cruelty from Kabul to Times Square?