US returns fire on Taliban inside Pakistan


The situation on Afghan-Pakistani border has heated up as US forces attacked a Taliban position inside Pakistan. Meanwhile, reports from North Waziristan indicate US forces are massing across the border in Afghanistan's eastern provinces of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost, sparking fears of a US ground incursion into Pakistan's tribal areas.

US soldiers from Task Force Currahee was on the receiving end of "multiple rocket attacks" launched from inside Pakistan on July 15, the International Security Assistance Force reported. After pinpointing the firing location inside Pakistan, responded "with a combination of fires from attack helicopters and artillery into Pakistan."

US troops coordinated the response with the Pakistani military. "The Pakistani military agreed to assist and search the area if the border firing continued," ISAF stated.

The rocket attack against US forces in Paktika is the latest in a series of cross-border incidents and Taliban attacks on bases and district centers in eastern Pakistan. On July 10, Taliban mortar and rocket teams attempted to spark a cross-border incident between US and Pakistani forces by launching rockets and mortar at bases on both sides of the border. US forces have returned fire into Pakistan several other times this year.

The Afghan Army and police and the US military have repelled a series of attacks in the border provinces of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Kunar, and Nuristan over the past month. The Taliban are attempting to destabilize the eastern region and overrun Afghan government centers and Coalition bases. Attacks in the east are up by more than 40 percent from last year, according to the US military. More than 250 Taliban fighters have been killed during the clashes. Many of the attacks have originated from Pakistan.

US massing for attack into Pakistan?

Yesterday's rocket attack comes as Pakistani tribesmen in North Waziristan and Pakistani military sources have stated that US troops are massing across the border in Paktia, Paktika, and Khost, and are preparing to strike inside Pakistan. An estimated 300 to 500 US troops, along with armor and "heavy weaponry" were moved into positions across the border near Camp Tillman.

"They were brought by helicopters," Akmal Khan, a Pakistani tribesman from Lowara Mandi in North Waziristan told Reuters. They are at the zero point," Akmal Khan, a resident of Lowara Mandi, told Reuters. Anonymous Pakistani intelligence and security officials told Reuters they fear the US will enter Pakistani territory to take out al Qaeda and Taliban camps, and will spark a wider war with the Pakistani tribes.

Tribesmen in North Waziristan, who shelter powerful Taliban leaders such as the Haqqani family and Gul Bahadar, vowed to defend their territory from any US incursion. "More than three million tribesmen would fight along the Pakistani security forces if foreign troops enter the Tribal Areas," Malik Afzal Khan told the Daily Times. The tribes also vowed to support the Pakistani Army against any US invasion.

The reports of troop movements have not been confirmed by ISAF or the US military. But the likelihood is US troops are reinforcing established positions and building new ones in the region due to the heavy volume of Taliban attacks over the past several months, and in light of the Taliban and al Qaeda attack that came close to overrunning the forward outpost in Nuristan last weekend. The buildup in eastern Afghanistan comes as Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a surprise visit to Pakistan and expressed concern and frustration over the rise of extremist groups in northwestern Pakistan and the impact on Afghanistan's security.

Tensions along the ill-defined, rugged border have escalated since the Pakistani government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.



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READER COMMENTS: "US returns fire on Taliban inside Pakistan"

Posted by C. Jordan at July 16, 2008 12:06 PM ET:

Go get them boys and girls!

Thank you Bill for the most current reporting on the region.

Posted by don juice at July 16, 2008 12:20 PM ET:

now we have problems cause the tribes dont like us and they aiding the terrorist...so what do we do cause if we launch covert ops they still will see us and we gonna get killed or captured and we cant nuke the place so like i said we have problems but im sure we will think of something

Posted by Steve-o at July 16, 2008 12:34 PM ET:

Time for the Taliban to learn there are no safety zones in war. We can't sit back and wait for more attacks on fixed positions.

Posted by Tony at July 16, 2008 1:19 PM ET:

Better idea: Give the impression that a major incursion into the FATA is coming, without any real intention to do anything. This would accomplish the following: 1)Keep the jihadis busy for a while preparing defenses and waiting - every guy digging ditches and rigging booby-traps is one less guy doing bad stuff in Afghanistan, 2)Provide an opportunity to set up more outposts on the Afghan side in the meantime, 3)Clear some non-combatants by giving the impression that an invasion is imminent - making a denser concentration of bad guys to be killed by rockets and missiles, 4)Gain valuable intel by observing observing the jihadis dig in - in case we really want to send some NATO (or ANA) troops in later, and 5)*BONUS* Possibly get OBL on the move in a hurry, if he happens to be in the area (hunters and chess players alike should appreciate this idea).

- Any thoughts??

Posted by GM Earnest at July 16, 2008 1:28 PM ET:

Thanks LWJ for your ongoing coverage of these events. If the ISI is infiltrated with extremists and is not under the control of the civilian government in Islamabad, and if that government is negotiating stupid "peace" deals with fanatics dedicated to turning Pakistan into a terror sponsor, is it not time for NATO, Afghanistan, and the U.S. to invade these ungovernable areas and establish international control?

Why is everyone wringing their hands about Pakistan? The civilian government there has massive problems of its own: earthquake relief, water, energy, social justice, mitigated on the positive side by modernization and outsourcing investment. If the civilian government cannot manage these "lawless" territitories, if would seem that ultimately they would privately welcome some law and order in this remote area, even if forced on it by external powers. Serbia abrogated Kosovo, and not it looks like Pakistan would be well rid of these western "agencies."

Posted by Tommy at July 16, 2008 1:41 PM ET:

Not good enough

Bush has 6 1/2 months left in office....what is he waiting for? When are the operations in FATA going to start like we've been hearing for months?

The US needs to stop wasting time with warnings...sending officials to Pakistan...threats in the media...etc. It hasnt worked and it wont work. We know where these people are, but we're going to continue to let our troops do nothing and die. It's unacceptable!

WE NEED ACTION NOW!!!!

Posted by Rhys at July 16, 2008 1:45 PM ET:

Unpopular as the idea may seem, it would be quite efficient to start dropping tactical nukes in this area. One 1-2kT device on each AQ/Talib camp, and those groups would quickly cease to be effective. I don't know how close the terror camps are to civilian population centers, so it's possible this would be impossible due to collateral damage, but in my opinion all options need to be on the table.

Posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 2:17 PM ET:

Here is a link to recent paper PDF from Daniel Markey, CFR, sponsored in part from "Center for Preventative Action" and foreward by CFR President Richard Haass...

http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Pakistan_CSR36.pdf

It provides recent info along with maps, demographics, etc., political and internal issues of Pakistan. With a summary of current conditions and proposed short/long term options for plans to avoid larger conflict. CFR sent us down the current road. So it is interesting to read what they have in store next. This paper perhaps provides a small look into their worldview for future actions by the next President. It means much to the military actions as well depending upon which actions are taken.

Some quotes:

"The Pakistani government lacks the political, military, or bureaucratic capacity to
fix the tribal areas on its own. Islamabad's civilian political leaders have little recent
experience in dealing with a development and security initiative of this scale; at present,
they appear far more concerned with skirmishing over power than developing an
effective policy for the tribal areas."

Agree.

"The pathological imbalance between civilian and
military power at the national level continues to hinder stable, efficient governance, and,
particularly over the past eighteen months, has provided a formula mainly for lurching
from crisis to crisis."

Agree.

"Pakistan's army has not come to terms with the need to fundamentally retool itself
for a new counterinsurgency mission, one far different from its historical fixation on war
with India. The FC and other policing forces throughout the tribal areas are ill prepared to
pick up the army's slack, at least in the immediate term."

Hmmm, well that and corruption, infiltration, etc.

"Local judicial and administrative institutions, such as the political agents in the FATA and the lower courts of the NWFP, are widely perceived as corrupt and inefficient, if not outright illegitimate. And Pakistan's long history of involvement in Afghanistan offers no insulation from the flare
of regional tensions."

Good, now getting to the core problems.

"Moreover, because of a yawning trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States, Washington cannot even be sure that Islamabad shares its interests, or at least its priorities, in the tribal areas. In particular, Pakistan appears far more concerned about immediate threats to internal security than to militancy in Afghanistan or terrorism in the United States and Western Europe."

Bingo.

Its a 78 page document with information most Americans are now aware of so its a good read just for that purpose and it shows the complexity that our leaders are dealing with in Pakistan. I'm sure some of our foreign readers may find it interesting too, if not accurate or agreeable to their views.

Posted by Michael at July 16, 2008 2:28 PM ET:

typo correction now=not in "... most Americans are 'not' aware of..."

The document link at CFR above at least outlines all the issues and proposes short/long term recommendations. It is a clear admittance of a very long effort and expense over decades of building up a nation that is overtly hostile to America even in the urgan areas. The tribal areas suffer from 17% literacy rate and no communication from the outside world. Are thus limited to what radicals, al qaeda, taliban, and tribal leaders teach them in madrassas, etc., and have even more hatred for the West and America as a result.

One operation may be to drop down a million radios and begin a mass communication effort as well to divide and conquer.

Posted by Alex at July 16, 2008 2:54 PM ET:

Imagine if NATO forces other than US, Canadian, and British, fully did their job between 2004 and now and weren't hamstrung by their rules of engagement. We probably would have taken many, many more AQ or Taliban out of the fight while they were still hiding on the Afghan side.

Posted by JusCruzn at July 16, 2008 4:20 PM ET:

Thanks for that reporting Bill. I know I can count on LWJ for the best information out there. If they are going to continue to hide in Pakistan it's long past time to do something about it. There has been way too much talk and not enough action. Time to take the gloves off for our troops and let them FINISH THE JOB! It's no secret that AlZawahiri has been spotted in the area many times, and you know OBL can't be far away. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by Neo at July 16, 2008 5:59 PM ET:

If the Pakistani's can't or won't do anything about the increasing boarder incursions than perhaps they should get used to the idea that someone is going to do something about it sooner or later.

This still involves a relatively small number of troops, so don't get your hopes up for some sort of definitive action. If the Taliban wants to play hopscotch with the boarder than we can at least complicate the game a bit. I don't think we are going to go burning our way through the neighborhood anytime soon though either, any indication from the Pakistani press that we will do so amounts to so much horse hockey.

Karzai might be advised to officially take these sovereignty issues to the UN. Not that the UN will do anything, but it could be used to send a strong message that Afghanistan will no longer be used as Pakistan's toilet. More to the point, it would label these incursions as acts of war and set a legal basis for doing something about them.

Part of the problem, we haven't discussed much here, is that much of the Pakistani population sees itself as the victim not the aggressor here. They need to get constant feedback that they are bringing this on themselves. I'm not talking about threats and chest thumping, because that just feeds their view that they are being put upon. In the mean time, if the Taliban is going to mount a major cross boarder offensive, we will have to do what is necessary to check their efforts.

Posted by sinz52 at July 16, 2008 9:38 PM ET:

Alex,


The only reason why these NATO countries ever agreed to participate in Afghanistan at all was that they had been reassured by the U.S. that their own operations would be limited to "peacekeeping." Once al-Qaeda and the Taliban resumed a full-scale offensive against the NATO coalition, they bugged out.


The NATO alliance had never planned to go into full-scale combat and take heavy casualties for the sake of those upstart Americans from across the Atlantic. A large percentage of people in Europe, even right after 9-11, believed 9-11 wasn't their problem and it certainly wasn't their war. Their definition of "European ally" was always America helping out Europe--never the reverse.

Posted by Red Howard at July 16, 2008 9:44 PM ET:

C'mon fellas, to launch an overt military raid into the Tribal Areas by uniformed US/NATO troops would be a spectacular display of bad judgement and EXACTLY what AQ/Taliban wants to happen. This is precisely there gameplan. Even with CVN 72 peeking over the horizon now, don't hold your breadth fellas, cause it ain't happening...but stay tuned...you'll be tipping your glasses soon enough.

Posted by Neo at July 17, 2008 4:29 PM ET:

Red Howard,

There are many more ways to make things difficult for the Taliban than overt cross boarder raids. I really doubt we will be seeing overt incursions by US/NATO troops anyway. There may be a certain amount of fighting at and across the boarder but I doubt things go much further. The Pakistani's will get excited enough about things as they are. We will be stepping up the interference and bringing in more troops sooner than later.

It is not in our interest to escalate the current conflict. On the other hand, the Taliban must escalate it's activities against Pakistan to an even higher level to win. Few Pakistani's support US action but that doesn't necessarily translate into support for the Taliban. I would gauge open support for the Taliban at less than 1/3 of the Pakistani population. That is still a sizable and dangerous block though. There seems to be around another third that despise both the US and Taliban. The remainder has varying degrees of ambivalence about both the Taliban and the US.

The Pakistani government doesn't seem to score much higher in the estimation of the populous and each of the parties has it's own small core constituents but are roundly hated by the rest of the electorate. This enmity generally applies to both the civilian and military leadership. They don't seem to trust anyone's motivations, domestic or external. Almost uniformly, they don't believe the US is there because of 9/11 and would rather put their faith in whatever wild conspiracy's are currently floating around. Sadly, you will only find minority that have any idea why we are there and what our motivations are. I'm not talking about disagreements over how justifiable our position is, because the level of disconnect is so deep that justification doesn't even enter the picture.

Posted by Red Howard at July 17, 2008 6:23 PM ET:

Roger that, Neo. Well said. I can see you right now with your shalwar kameez on and a cup of tea in one hand and a smoke in the other!

Posted by Private Finch at July 19, 2008 9:42 PM ET:

I would like to see us use drones to take out the insurgent leaders. The drones are a surgical way of causing clean hits. Track cross border movements and use drones and ambushes on them. Pakistan can't be allowed to cause so many problems.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at July 25, 2008 6:13 AM ET:

Regarding Rhys's comment:

I agree, but it doesn't go far enough. Tacnukes are not the answer; stratnukes are. Make the entire border region - both sides - an uninhabitable wasteland. And if their "brothers in Islam" to the west and south object, and start getting difficult about supplying oil - well, that would be a perfect reason to take it off them, along with the trillions of dollars in assets in the West they did nothing to earn.

Time, and past time, to stop playing games and start fighting this war as if we actually want to win.