Disaster in making: US incursions into Pakisani territory
Following the 9/11 tragedy, the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of what Washington called the war on terror but with the passage of time it transpired that the besides fighting terrorists, there is some hidden agenda as well.
The US troops have reportedly been conducting covert operations inside Pakistani territory bordering Afghanistan but it become overt in early September when the US troops raided a Pakistani village and reportedly killed several innocent men and women. Since then, the US incursions into Pakistani territory have become a headache for every Pakistani and many Pakistanis now fear that the US agenda of occupying Afghanistan also included destabilisation of Pakistan, which might prove disastrous not only for Pakistan but also for the whole region in general and the world in particular.
Over the past few days, Pakistani soldiers have fired shots at two Nato helicopters; Pakistani troops have exchanged fire with the soldiers of Afghan National Army (ANA) and a US military drone crashed at the village of Jalal Khel in South Waziristan. On September 3, America's 4-year covert operation into Pakistani territory went overt when helicopter-borne US Navy SEALs raided three houses and killed some two-dozen villagers.
The United States Army has deployed Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters for covert as well as overt incursions into Pakistan and the United States Air Force (USAF) is using MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Black Hawk is US Army's frontline air assault and air cavalry helicopter with a service ceiling of 19,000 feet (5,790m) and is thus not vulnerable to small arms fire. The Predator is a medium-altitude, long endurance UAV with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet (7,620m) and cannot be brought down through small arms or anti-aircraft apparatus currently in place on the Pak-Afghan border. The Reaper is a long-endurance, high-altitude, hunter-killer UAV with a ceiling of 50,000 feet (15km). In effect, none of America's killing machines can be brought down by whatever the tribesmen or Pakistani forces have at their command (Pakistan's most capable anti-aircraft artillery is deployed on the eastern border).
On September 10, COAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country would be defended at "all costs". On September 15, Pakistan Air Force's (PAF), Lockheed-made, F-16 Fighting Falcons were sighted conducting air patrols in areas bordering Afghanistan. On September 23, President Asif Ali Zardari said that American incursions into Pakistan were a "violation of United Nations Charter". On September 25, Robert Gates, United States Secretary of Defence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that in his view the Untied Nations Charter "allowed the US to act in self-defence against international terrorists in Pakistan if the government was unable, or unwilling to deal with them."
Rhetoric from the US as well as Pakistani political and military leadership is becoming more and more dangerous by the day. According to Strategic Forecasting Inc., a Texas-based private intelligence agency, "Pakistani forces fired upon US military helicopters along the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Pentagon confirmed Sept 25. However, a Pentagon spokesman denied Pakistani claims that the helicopters had entered Pakistani airspace. Islamabad later claimed that only "warning shots" were fired and later insisted that only signal flares were fired to warn the helicopters off. This incident -- almost a textbook border dispute, complete with each side claiming it was in the right place in an area where the precise border often is not clear, and subsequent revisions of statements -- highlights the dangers of tensions as high as they are between Pakistan and the United States."
An accident is waiting to happen: Pakistani forces might get aggressive and shot down an American helicopter not yet within Pakistan's borders or American forces may get overly aggressive in their 'hot pursuit', 'hit and withdraw' or 'search and destroy' missions well within Pakistan's territory.
It seems there might be no change in the US policy even after the upcoming presidential election.
US Democrat presidential candidate, Barack Obama has said that if Pakistan didn’t take action against the extremists, then the US would.
In a public debate with the US Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, Barack Obama said that if the government of Pakistan made excuses for taking action against the extremists, then he would order US Forces to target the extremists’ hideouts inside Pakistan. However, the Republican candidate, John McCain surprisingly opposed this proposal and said that he would not enter into arguments on this policy in public. John McCain said that he would also oppose any proposal for a cut in assistance being given to Pakistan as punishment for Pakistan’s alleged non-cooperation.
How such an accident can happen is clear from the reaction of Pakistani tribesmen to the US incusions into Pakistani territory.
Toting rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs, the bearded tribesmen say they back the Pakistani government -- yet pledge they will fight to the death against US incursions on their soil.
The Pakistani military took reporters to the Pashtun tribal fighters in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan in a bid to show they have the support of locals for a month-long operation in the area, an Al-Qaeda and Taliban hotspot.
But there was also a strong message for US forces over the border, who have caused anger in Pakistan with a string of alleged territorial violations, including a raid by US ground troops on September 3 that left 15 people dead.
"We will fight against America until the last soul if they come to our country," said Malik Manasib Khan, the leader of a "lashkar", or tribal force, called up to help Pakistan's army expel the militants -- and anyone else.
"For us, the Taliban, NATO and the United States are all equals," the burly tribal chief told journalists in the bazaar at Raghagan, about 12 kilometres (eight miles) northeast of Khar, the main town in Bajaur region.
Fiercely independent, religiously conservative and obsessed by revenge, the tribes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have repelled all invaders for centuries and still hold the key to stability in the region.
When thousands of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fled the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the tribes sheltered them, viewing them as successors of the "mujahedeen" who fought the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
In 2003, Islamabad launched army operations at Washington's behest in the tribal belt, especially the notorious Waziristan area, but civilian deaths helped to radicalize and fire up many more tribesmen against the government.
Pakistani authorities have in recent years made major efforts to win the support of leading tribesmen in a bid to drive out foreign Al-Qaeda militants and isolate the most hardcore Taliban commanders.
Yet that policy -- combined with US and Afghan suspicions that elements in Pakistan's intelligence agencies still back the Taliban -- has caused tensions with Washington, which wants Islamabad to launch an all-out offensive.
Pakistan complied and in August launched a military push in Bajaur, the smallest but increasingly the most dangerous of the country's seven tribal regions. The army said Friday the operation had left 1,000 militants dead.
But the deaths of 11 Pakistani soldiers in a US air strike in June, a series of missile strikes and, on Thursday, an exchange of gunfire after Pakistani troops fired at US helicopters, have raised tensions to boiling point.