Here’s A Riddle For You (Updated)

Question: when is an “anti-Afghan militant” not an anti-Afghan militant? Answer: when he’s a Pakistani paramilitary.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan released footage Thursday of a skirmish with militants that Pakistan claims resulted in an airstrike on one of its border posts that killed 11 of its troops.

Pakistan has lodged a strong diplomatic protest, saying the bombing of the Gorparai post in the Mohmand frontier region on Tuesday was a “completely unprovoked and cowardly act.”

But Pakistani and U.S. officials have given widely differing accounts of an event that threatens to further sour relations between key allies in Washington’s war on terror — a partnership already unpopular among Pakistanis.

To support its version, the coalition on Thursday took the unusual step of releasing excerpts of a video shot by a surveillance drone circling above the mountainous battle zone.

The obvious answer to resolving the differing accounts is that it’s a floor wax and a dessert topping. Those people firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades at U. S. forces were probably both anti-Afghan militants and members of a Pakistani paramilitary organization supported by the government. It depended on which face they were turning and to whom.

The greater riddle is how one can cope with a situation in which your allies are your enemies. I don’t have an answer to that one.


The New York Times explains the U. S. action as “faulty communications”:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American air and artillery strikes killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers during a clash with insurgents on the Afghan border on Tuesday night, a development that raised concerns about the already strained American relationship with Pakistan.

The strikes underscored the often faulty communications involving American, Pakistani and Afghan forces along the border, and the ability of Taliban fighters and other insurgents to use havens in Pakistan to carry out attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

The attack comes at a time of rising tension between the United States and the new government in Pakistan, which has granted wide latitude to militants in its border areas under a new series of peace deals, drawing criticism from the United States.

That certainly doesn’t seem to be the explanation the U. S. forces in Afghanistan are putting forward. Unless the NYT means faulty communications between the Pakistani government and their Taliban-supporting allies.

Update 2

AJ Strata is thinking along similar lines to mine:

I believe this ridiculous claim of an attack on Pakistan from Afghanistan is a crude lie cooked up by folks who realized it was blatantly obvious some Frontier Corps forces (who are recruited from the local tribes) were caught fighting alongside mlitant Taliban forces. There support earned them some US bombs in their outpost.

If it became known that there were ISI elements helping coordinate cover for the Taliban and al-Qaeda through these Frontier Corps, so the Taliban could attack Afghanistan, the new Pak government’s policy of negotiation and appeasement would collapse and the Pakistan electorate would turn it out of office (there is no support for Islamo Fascism in Pakistan – as the last election showed as militants were nearly universally thrown out of office>

I think he’s gone a little beyond the actual evidence here.

Meanwhile Tariq Ali says that the incident points to NATO’s failure in Afghanistan:

There are at least two routes out of the Khyber impasse. The first and the worst would be to Balkanise the country. This appears to be the dominant pattern of imperial hegemony at the moment, but whereas the Kurds in Iraq and the Kosovans and others in the former Yugoslavia were willing client-nationalists, the likelihood of Tajiks or Hazaris playing this role effectively is more remote in Afghanistan.

The second alternative would require a withdrawal of all US/Nato forces, either preceded or followed by a regional pact to guarantee Afghan stability for the next ten years. Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia could guarantee and support a functioning national government, pledged to preserving the ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan and creating a space in which all its citizens can breathe, think and eat every day. It would need a serious social and economic plan to rebuild the country and provide the basic necessities for its people.

Nato’s failure cannot be simply blamed on the Pakistani government. It is a traditional colonial ploy to blame “outsiders” for internal problems. If anything, the war in Afghanistan has created a critical situation in two Pakistani frontier provinces and the use of the Pakistan army by Centcom has resulted in suicide terrorism in Lahore with the federal intelligence agency and a naval training college targeted by supporters of the Afghan insurgents.

I think that Tariq Ali, too, has gone a little beyond the available evidence.

I continue to think that there is no achieveable mission in Afghanistan other than the denial of territory and never has been. But it’s too early to proclaim that mission a failure.

3 comments… add one
  • I wonder if “Pakistani paramilitary” is code for ISI?

  • There is absolutely an achievable mission in Afghanistan: prevent it from being a safe harbor for terrorism against US interests abroad. Beyond that? Probably not, but that’s a pretty good mission for such a small troop commitment. It would be easier if we acted as more of a warlord, employing the locals directly as adjunct troops, but if Tariq Aziz thinks what we’re doing NOW is imperialism, he’d blow a gasket if we copied the Brits’ methods.

  • That’s essentially what I mean by “denial of territory”. I’ve also described it as “Fort Apache”. I think that’s a forever role and is as well accomplished with the size force we’ve got there now as it would be with a force twice that size.

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