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If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

  • At least 27 tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan were destroyed at a fuel station in southern Pakistan, an official said Friday.
  • It was unclear whether the attack was linked to a NATO airstrike Thursday at a border post in Khurram Agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in which three Pakistani troops died, the BBC said.
  • Pakistan has formally lodged protest with NATO over airstrikes in its tribal region, which Thursday also killed three soldiers, officials said on Friday.
  • “Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani met the Deputy Secretary General of NATO in Brussels to lodge protest over the border violations by NATO/ISAF helicopters,” Pakistani Embassy in Brussels said.
  • Most people in Pakistan’s tribal regions strongly oppose U.S. missile strikes in their territory, with nearly half believing they kill mainly civilians, according to a rare opinion poll that may raise doubts about a key plank of the Obama administration’s anti-terror strategy.
  • Nearly nine of 10 people surveyed opposed the U.S. taking action against militants in the tribal belt.

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 NAT O 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. October 1, 2010, Upright Opinion, Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre? By Saeed Qureshi.

(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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  • President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said that the Government of Pakistan strongly disapproves any incident of violation of its sovereignty and any violation of internationally agreed principles was counter-productiveand unacceptable.
  • The president made these remarks during a meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday.
  • Panetta also separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the PM House and the General Headquarters respectively.
  • Gunmen in southern Pakistan on Friday torched more than two dozen trucks and tankers carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan, police said.
  • Attacks on trucks carrying goods for US and Nato-led forces are routine.

Pak Army dismisses reports of Europe plots

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Editor’s note: Time and again, the western media keeps dragging Pakistan into matters that are speculative and most probably hoaxes. News of terrorism/plots of terrorism always tend to make headlines in any country. By labelling it as “Pakistan-based terror”, it seems some added credit points are awarded to the channel that reports it first – despite there being no evidence of any such threats. As to why the Indian and Western media has become so Pakistan-centric in the recent past is ofcourse not beyond comprehension. The US and its coalition (including India) are facing a hard time in Afghanistan, and now they’re trying to force the “Af & Pak” region into civil war so that they can have an honourable exit, blaming it on both the countries, by labelling them as “terrorists” or “rogue states”. Unfortunately for the Pentagon however, the situation is being rubbed in their face by their constant failure in Afghanistan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army on Wednesday dismissed as “very speculative” media reports that this month’s  upsurge in US drone strikes on Islamist militants in the country’s northwest sought to disrupt attacks on European cities.

Sky News on Tuesday reported that militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes in London akin to the 2008 militant assault on Mumbai as well as attacks on cities in France and Germany.

It said a month of strikes by pilotless drone aircraft focused on Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, in which more than 100 militants were killed, was intended to disrupt the plot.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters: “We don’t have any information or intelligence that militants had gathered there (in North Waziristan) and were plotting attacks. There is absolutely no intelligence on that.”

“Basically it’s very speculative,” he said of the Sky News report. “It’s a very speculative story. It does not quote any credible source.”

US security officials said they could not confirm that a plot had been disrupted. But they said they believed that the threat of a plot or plots remained.

While no senior-ranking militants were reported killed, Pakistani intelligence officials say a number of others of different nationalities are believed to have died.

On Sept 26, a senior al Qaeda leader, identified as Shaikh al-Fateh, also known as Shaikh Fateh al-Masri, was believed to have been killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

‘Not surprised at surge’

There have been 21 strikes carried out by the remotely piloted drones in September, the highest number in a single month.

Tehrik e Taliban(TTP) has made several threats against American and European targets, but has so far failed to carry out any overseas attacks.

US counter-terrorism agencies are poring over intelligence reports suggesting a major attack plot is currently in the works against unspecified targets in Western Europe or possibly the United States, US security officials said.

Four US security officials, who asked for anonymity, said that initial intelligence reports about the threat first surfaced two weeks ago, around the time of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

British security sources declined to comment on the Sky News report. Britain in January raised its international terrorism threat level to “severe” — the second highest level in the five-tier system.

In Germany, the interior ministry said that while Berlin had information on the alleged plots, there were no firm signs of an imminent attack.

“The current pointers do not warrant a change in the assessment of the danger level,” the ministry said in a statement.

A serious risk of attack

The head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, Jonathan Evans, said on Sept. 16 there remained “a serious risk of a lethal attack taking place”.

“As we have repeatedly said, we know al Qaeda wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al Qaeda,” US intelligence chief James Clapper said in a statement.

One US official said militants in Pakistan were “constantly” planning attacks in the region and beyond, and the United States would react to that.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that links between plots and those who are orchestrating them lead to decisive American action. The terrorists who are involved are, as everyone should expect, going to be targets. That’s the whole point of all of this,” the official said.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/56186/pakistan-army-dismisses-reports-of-europe-plots/

Pakistan blocks supply trucks after three Pakistani soldiers killed in NATO Helicopter attack

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

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.