The following month midterm elections will be held in the U.S. and NATO will hold a two-day summit in Portugal. The American administration is eager to achieve, or appear to have achieved, a foreign policy triumph in an effort to retain Democratic Party control of the Congress and NATO something to show for the longest and largest military mission in its 61 years of existence.
President Barack Obama has tripled the amount of American combat troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 and along with forces from other NATO member states and partner nations there are now over 150,000 foreign troops in the nation, the most ever stationed in the war-wracked country. 120,000 of those soldiers are now under the command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the most ever serving in a North Atlantic Alliance-led military operation. NATO Kosovo Force at its peak had 50,000 troops, but they entered the Serbian province after an almost three-month air war had ended.
The 120,000 NATO forces currently in theater – from 50 nations already with more pegged to provide troops – are at the center of the world’s longest-lasting and increasingly deadly hot war. NATO’s first ground war, its first combat operations in Asia.
Last year was the most lethal for the U.S and NATO in what is now a nine-year conflict and this year has already proven even more costly in terms of combat deaths. And there are three more months to go.
Washington and Brussels could decide to save face and end the fighting through some combination of an internal political settlement and a true international peacekeeping arrangement – rather than the subversion of the International Security Assistance Force that was established by a United Nations mandate in December of 2001 but which is now the Pentagon’s and NATO’s vehicle for waging war in Afghanistan. And in neighboring Pakistan.
But the military metaphysic prevalent in Washington over the past 65 years will allow for nothing other than what is seen as victory, with a “Who lost Afghanistan?” legacy tarnishing the president who fails to secure it and the party to which he belongs being branded half-hearted and defeatist.
As for NATO, the Strategic Concept to be adopted in November is predicated upon the bloc’s expansion into a 21st century global expeditionary force for which Afghanistan is the test case. A NATO that loses Afghanistan, that loses in Afghanistan, will be viewed more critically by the populations of its European member states that have sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altar of NATO’s international ambitions. In the words of then-Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer six years ago: “What is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Defending values at the Hindu Kush in the present day international climate. We have to fight terrorism wherever it emerges. If we don’t do it at the Hindu Kush, it will end up at our doorstep. In other words, this perception gap [of the North Atlantic military alliance operating in South Asia] in the long run must be closed and must be healed – that is, for NATO’s future, of the utmost importance.” 
Not satisfied with the Vietnam that Afghanistan has become, NATO has now launched its Cambodian incursion. One with implications several orders of magnitude greater than with the prototype, though, into a nation of almost 170 million people, a nation wielding nuclear weapons. Pakistan.
As the U.S. delivered its 20th deadly drone missile attack of the month inside Pakistan on the 27th, five times the amount launched in August and the most in any month since they were started in 2004, NATO conducted a series of attacks with helicopter gunships in Northwest Pakistan. Claiming the “right of self-defense” and in “hot pursuit” of insurgents that had reportedly attacked a NATO camp, Combat Outpost Narizah, in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the Pakistani border, this past weekend NATO attack helicopters conducted two forays into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where U.S. drone strikes have killed a record number of people this month.
Estimates of those killed, dutifully referred to in the Western press as insurgents, militants or terrorists, were 30, then 50, afterward 60, 70 and later “82 or higher.” 
The amount, like the identify, of the dead will never be definitively known.
Press reports stated the targets were members of the Haqqani network, founded by veteran Afghan Mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who when he led attacks from Pakistani soil against Afghan targets slightly over a generation ago was an American hero, one of Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.” Two years ago the New York Times wrote: “In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was cultivated as a ‘unilateral’ asset of the CIA and received tens of thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in ‘The Bin Ladens,’ a recent book by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll wrote.” 
As to the regret that the otherwise praiseworthy Haqqani has of late allied himself with the Taliban, one voiced by among other people the late Charlie Wilson who once celebrated Haqqani as “goodness personified,” in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last year Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told his American audience that the Taliban “was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and the CIA created them together. And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that….” 
On September 27 two NATO helicopters attacked the Kurram agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killing six people and wounding eight. A local Pakistani government official described all the victims as civilians. According to Dawn News, “Nato has also shelled the area before.”  Three attacks in three days and as many as 100 deaths.
On the same day a U.S. drone-launched missile strike killed four people in the North Waziristan agency. “The identities of the four people killed in the attack were not known….” 
The above events occurred against the backdrop of the revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars that “a 3,000-strong secret army of Afghan paramilitary forces run by the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan.” 
After mounting in intensity for two years and consisting in part – helicopter gunship attacks and special forces assassination team raids – of covert operations, the U.S. and NATO war in Northwest Pakistan is now fully underway and can no longer be denied.
The Pentagon – the helicopters used in the attacks on September 25 and 26 were American Apaches and Kiowas – defended the strikes over the weekend as falling within its rules of engagement and Defense Department spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the U.S. had adhered to “appropriate protocol” and “Our forces have the right of self-defense.” 
A spokesmen for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially denied that Alliance forces had launched any attacks inside Pakistani territory, although Afghan police officials had confirmed that they did. On September 27, however, the International Security Assistance Force verified that NATO forces had conducted the deadly strikes. As the third attack by NATO helicopters occurred on the same day, “Coalition officials said the cross-border attacks fell within its rules of engagement because the insurgents had attacked them from across the border.” 
A NATO official informed the press that “ISAF forces must and will retain the authority, within their mandate, to defend themselves in carrying out their mission.” 
Mehmood Shah, former top security official of the Pakistani government in the region where the helicopter gunship and drone strikes have killed over 200 people so far this month, said of the recent NATO attacks: “This should be considered a watershed event. They [Nato] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. Nato must realise they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” 
On September 27 Interior Minister Rehman Malik denounced the NATO raids as a violation of Pakistani territorial integrity and national sovereignty and told the nation’s Senate that the Afghan ambassador to Islamabad would be summoned to explain the attacks. Malik and the Pakistani government as a whole know that the Hamid Karzai administration in Kabul has no control over what the U.S. and NATO do in its own country, much less in Pakistan. The interior minister’s comment were solely for internal consumption, for placating Pakistani popular outrage, but as Pakistan itself has become a NATO partner and U.S. surrogate  its officials, like those of Afghanistan, will not be notified of any future attacks.
Nevertheless domestic exigencies compelled Malik to denounce the strikes inside his country and assert “I take the drone attacks in Pakistani territory as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan.” A senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz “asked the government to inform the parliament about any accord it had reached with the US under which drone attacks were being carried out.” 
At the same time Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit went further and lodged what was described as a strong protest to NATO Headquarters in Brussels over the weekend’s air strikes, issuing a statement that said in part: “These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” as its mandate “terminates/finishes” at the Afghan border.
“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable.” 
By the evening of September 27, after the Pakistani complaints were registered, NATO’s ISAF attempted to conduct damage control and reverted to the military bloc’s original position: That it has not launched attacks inside Pakistan at all. On that very day it had dispatched two more helicopter gunships for the third raid in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
NATO will continue to launch lethal attacks inside Pakistan against whichever targets it sees fit and will proffer neither warnings nor apologies. The U.S. will continue to escalate attacks with Hellfire missiles against whomever it chooses, however inaccurate, anecdotal and self-interested the reports upon which they are based prove to be.
The death toll in Pakistan this month is well over 200 and for this year to date over 2,000. The justification for this carnage offered by the U.S. and NATO is that it is intended to extend the policy of Barack Obama to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” insurgent networks in Afghanistan into Pakistan, supposedly the sooner to end the war.
Forty years ago Obama’s predecessor Richard Nixon began his speech announcing the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia with these words: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced the decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. And at that time I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.” 
He claimed that “enemy sanctuaries” in Cambodia “endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam,” and “if this enemy effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier: a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation.”
The course he ordered was to “go to the heart of the trouble. And that means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied territories, these sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.”
The practical application of the policy was that “attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border.”
In language that has been heard again lately in Washington and Brussels – with nothing but the place names changed – Nixon claimed: “We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam….”
Washington indeed expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia, with what disastrous effects the world is fully aware, and soon thereafter departed Southeast Asia in defeat, leaving vast stretches of Vietnam and Cambodia in ruins.
Afghanistan and Pakistan will not fare any better.
Pakistan has blocked NATO supply trucks passing through its territory after atleast 3 Pakistani soldiers were killed when a NATO Helicopter targeted a security chekpost in Kurram Agency, near the Pak-Afghan border.
Pakistani government officials said senior authorities had ordered them to block oil tankers and trucks carrying Nato supplies at a checkpoint bordering Afghanistan. The two officials said they were not told the reason for the order at the Torkham border post, but it comes after threats by Pakistani officials to stop providing protection to Nato convoys if the military alliance’s helicopters hit Pakistani targets again.
A NATO helicopter attacked a Pakistani security post near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing three troops, officials in Pakistan said. NATO said it was investigating the allegations and whether they were linked to an operation against insurgents in a nearby Afghan province.
The incident was likely to fray ties between Pakistan and US-led forces in Afghanistan at a crucial time in the nine-year war. Just last weekend, NATO choppers opened fire on targets across the border, killing several alleged insurgents inside Pakistan.
Islamabad protested the incidents, which have further stirred already pervasive anti-American sentiments among Pakistanis.
Shortly after the allegations emerged, two government officials told The Associated Press they were ordered to stop NATO supply trucks from crossing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, a major passageway for NATO materials. Earlier this week, Pakistan threatened to stop providing protection to NATO convoys if the military alliance’s choppers attacked targets inside Pakistan again.
Pakistani officials differed on the exact location of the deadly airstrike, saying it took place either in Upper Kurram or Upper Orakzai. The remote, mountainous tribal regions neighbor one another, and the border is hard to distinguish.
The dead men were from a paramilitary force tasked with safeguarding the border, the Pakistani security officials said. Their bodies were taken to the region’s largest town of Parachinar, one official said. Three troops also were wounded.
The Pakistani officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and because in some cases they were not authorized to release the information to the media.
Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for intelligence and special operations at NATO headquarters in Kabul, said coalition forces observed early Thursday what they believed were insurgents firing mortars at a coalition base in Dand Wa Patan district of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan.
“A coalition air weapons team called for fire support and engaged the insurgents,” he said. “The air weapons team reported that it did not cross into Pakistani air space and believed the insurgents were located on the Afghan side of the border.”
Dorrian said NATO was reviewing the reports to see if the operation in Paktia was related to Pakistan’s reports its forces were hit by NATO aircraft.
In June 2008, a U.S. airstrike killed 11 Pakistani troops and frayed the two nations’ ties. Pakistan said the soldiers died when U.S. aircraft bombed their border post in the Mohmand tribal region. U.S. officials said their coalition’s aircraft dropped bombs during a clash with militants. They expressed regret over the incident, but said it was justified.
Pakistan and the U.S. have a complicated relationship, with distrust on both sides.
Polls show many Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy, and conspiracy theories abound of U.S. troops wanting to attack Pakistan and take over its nuclear weapons. The Pakistani government has to balance its support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan with the support it needs from the population.
The U.S. and NATO need Pakistan’s cooperation in part because they use its land routes to transport supplies to their troops inside landlocked Afghanistan. The Pakistani government officials said about 250 vehicles of NATO supplies cross into Afghanistan daily.
There were more than 100 NATO vehicles blocked at the checkpoint by Thursday morning, they said.
NATO has impugned on Pakistani sovereignty and crossed the border. This incursion should not be tolerated. It crosses the red line drawn by Pakistan. Islamabad should halt NATO supplies for a week. They will be able to replenish the supplies through airlifts and through ammunition and food that has been stored inside Afghanistan. However this will certainly impact the war being waged inside Afghanistan.
- Two Apache helicopters crossed the border from eastern Afghanistan after insurgents attacked a remote Afghan security outpost in Khost.
- A statement released late on Sunday night said: “An air weapons team in the area observed the enemy fire, and following International Security Assistance Force rules of engagement, crossed into the area of enemy fire.
- The ISAF aircraft then engaged, killing more than 30 insurgents.”
- The raid was followed up on Saturday morning when two Kiowa helicopters returned to the border area killing four more insurgents.
- Pakistan said the helicopters intruded into its territory twice from the eastern Afghan province of Khost as they chased the militants.
- “These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” a spokesman from the foreign office said.
- Pakistan added that ISAF’s mandate “finishes” at the Afghan border.
- “There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable,” the foreign office statement added.
- “In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options,” it warned.
The Pakistan Army is busy in Flood Relief and counts on NATO support in many areas–however if it does not act properly this time, the “hot pursuits” on the Western borders will become the norm. Taking its cue the same type of nonsense can then be undertaken on the Eastern borders.
There has to be some sort of retaliation towards NATO. They have not apologized. Instead NATO has tried to justify its actions by trying to rationalize it. More than fifty people were killed which NATO says are “Terrorirsts”. The same NATO is talking peace with the same Taliban that they consider as “Terrorists”.
- Military sources said the message communicated to the Nato command was crystal clear that in view of declining public support for war on terror, the security of Nato supply routes through Pakistan could be threatened in the aftermath of the new air campaign.
- Analysts say Pakistan could only stop US-led forces from such violations by tactfully using its leverages that largely relate to the support for war on terror and the supply routes.
- Nato was asked to coordinate its actions with Pakistan military and avoid crossing the ‘red lines’ — a euphemism for Pakistani sensitivities.
Update: International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which had earlier defended the aerial engagement as an action ‘under the right of self-defence’, later in the evening, according to military sources, informed Pakistani commanders that they were trying to establish that their helicopters during the operation did not cross into Pakistani territory.