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Another month, another incident with Pakistan. This time, it was a nighttime NATO airstrike against Pakistani border outposts that triggered the crisis. Pakistan says 25 of its soldiers were killed in the “unprovoked and indiscriminate” attack by NATO helicopters. NATO has issued apologies for the “tragic unintended incident.” But Islamabad has promised to retaliate for what it views as an act of aggression. In fact, the Pakistanis already have shut down the overland supply corridors that carry NATO war materiel into Afghanistan from Pakistani ports. In addition, Islamabad has demanded that the U.S. pull out of bases being used to conduct drone strikes.
To be sure, this could be what it appears on the surface: a friendly-fire mistake caused by the fog of war. There’s a reason the term was coined by the warriors of yesterday. Battle is chaos and confusion, especially at night.
Yet something tells me there’s more at play here than the fog of war.
As the Pakistani side rages about its innocent soldiers coming under attack while fighting our enemy, Afghan and NATO officials have made it clear that the helicopter strikes came in response to repeated fire from the Pakistani side of the border. More specifically, the fire came from “a Pakistan military outpost,” according to a Wall Street Journal report on the incident. That’s what triggered the NATO air attack, which, according to an Afghan official interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, “Pakistani officials were informed of…before it took place.”
This is nothing new. Pakistani forces have fired on U.S. and other NATO helicopters for years. Given that Taliban, Haqqani and al Qaeda forces have no helicopters, the Pakistanis cannot claim to be doing this by mistake.
Moreover, elements within the Pakistani security, military and intelligence apparatus—which helped create the Taliban in a short-sighted attempt to gain nominal control over Afghanistan—continue to support the Taliban and the Haqqani network. The Haqqani network, it pays to recall, has been involved in several terrorist attacks on civilians in Afghanistan (including the Kabul siege earlier this year) and in attacks on coalition troops. In September, Adm. Mike Mullen called the Haqqani network “a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).”
Haqqani operatives in Afghanistan, “with ISI support,” in Mullen’s words, have planned and conducted truck bomb attacks on U.S. and NATO bases, assaults on the U.S. embassy and deadly attacks on commercial and government facilities in Kabul. The ISI-backed Haqqani network was responsible for the 2009 attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan, which killed seven CIA operatives. According to the International Herald Tribune, ISI’s “S Wing” is coordinating Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan.
“The support of terrorism is part of their national strategy,” Mullen bluntly said of the dysfunctional, duplicitous Pakistani security, military and intelligence apparatus.
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