Pakistani officials: Take action to stop US airstrikes

A Pakistani parliamentary committee urged the government to go beyond mere diplomatic protests and take action to halt the US airstrikes against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwest, according to Daily Times:

Parliament’s Special Committee on National Security on Tuesday urged the government to go beyond verbal protests and play its role in stopping US drone attacks on Pakistani soil.

The in-camera committee meeting, which was chaired by Senator Raza Rabbani, was briefed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the new US policy on Afghanistan. Sources privy to the meeting told Daily Times that there was a consensus among party members over halting US drone attacks in the country.

They said although the foreign minister informed the committee that the government was raising the drone attack issue at every forum, committee members asked the foreign minister to proceed beyond mere statements and take concrete steps to resolve the issue.

According to Dawn, Foreign Minister Qureshi reportedly said that the Pakistani government would not permit the expansion of the US air campaign into Baluchistan, nor would it allow US forces to conduct ‘hot pursuit’ of Taliban forces fleeing Afghanistan into Pakistan. “The US intrusion into Pakistan is a step against our sovereignty,” Qureshi said, according to Daily Times.

As I’ve mentioned before, if Pakistan wants to end these attacks, it can deploy anti-aircraft batteries to shoot down the US strike aircraft. The Predators and Reapers are unmanned, so there is no chance of killing US pilots and creating a political row. The aircraft won’t be difficult to shoot down either. Pakistan would be well within its legal rights to defend its territory from incursions by US aircraft.

This political kabuki dance by the Pakistani government highlights just how bad the situation inside Pakistan is, and how precarious the US alliance with Pakistan is as well. The US is forced to conduct airstrikes in an allied country that it sends billion of dollars. But the US can’t admit publicly that it conducts said airstrikes. The Pakistani government denounces the airstrikes as a violation of its sovereignty, even though the strikes occur in a region where the government isn’t sovereign. Government officials lament the deaths of Pakistani citizens caused by its ally, even though the government secretly supports the US campaign and elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services (the counterterrorism branch of the Inter-Services Intelligence, for instance) provide targeting information to US intelligence. And the vast majority of those killed in the strikes are Taliban or al Qaeda fighters and leaders.

But the Pakistani government doesn’t want the secret campaign that it secretly supports but publicly denounces to expand to taking on the Taliban in Baluchistan, because that wouldn’t be politically viable. Nor will the government take on Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura, or the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, because powerful elements in the government, military, and intelligence services secretly support Omar, the Haqqanis, and company as these groups are viewed as ‘strategic depth’ against an anticipated US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a bulwark against India.

Meanwhile, as the Pakistani government denounces the US strikes, it provides rich, anti-American fodder for the Taliban and al Qaeda’s propaganda mill.

Strangely enough, the US air campaign in Pakistan is the best possible course of action in a series of very bad options. Barring a change of strategic direction by the Pakistani establishment, the strikes will continue, but very likely will not expand into Baluchistan. The US does not have the political will or resources to commit to an invasion and occupation of Pakistan’s tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, or Baluchistan. And even if the US did, Pakistan’s jihadi problem extends deep into Punjab and Sindh, even though Pakistani government officials refuse to admit this. At the same time, if the US doesn’t disrupt al Qaeda’s external operations network currently based in northwestern Pakistan, it leaves itself open to the next attack.

The limited US air campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban isn’t a strategy for victory, as some proponents make it out to be. It is a stopgap tactic designed to keep al Qaeda at bay because the Pakistani government won’t police its sovereign territory.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • MalangJan says:

    To secure the streets of Newyork, US/NATO is running out of options. The Paki military establishment is arrogantly supporting the Terrorist networks. Commom people in NWFP & Balochistan are already occupied by mullah millitary alliance(MMA). Punjabi army establishment is playing for making money, they are least concerned about the lives of people there or people in Newyork. US/NATO & people of NWFP, Balochistan need to help each other to get rid of this common munafiq enemies with duplicate faces(mulla & military) MMA. The ISI sponsered Paki media is negatively projecting drones attack but majority of people in Wazirstan/NWFP would like US to continue it with greater preicision & should include Haqanis & Nazir/Bahader/Bitani & other groups created by ISI.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    The whole idea that covert drone strikes violate Pakistani sovereignty and should be stopped for that reason alone is just so narrow-minded. Especially with the low numbers of civilians killed. Of course I’m sure that the anti-US groups and media inside Pakistan claim that every single one killed in these strikes are civilians. The fact is that these strikes are so effective at killing top AQ and Taliban leaders that it makes military offensives, especially on the Pakistani side of the border, seem less important.
    In fact, that’s probably what feeds the argument that the US mission in Afghanistan should be limited to counter-terror instead of counter-insurgency operations.

  • Jimmy says:

    Thanks, Bill for this analysis. US and NATO seem to be realizing reality the hard way. We Indians have been advising just this analysis to the west for many years now. No one paid heed to us. We have been fighting Pakistan centered jihadi acts of cruelty for 20 years now. I am proud to say that the jihadis have not succeeded in any of their goals. They haven’t managed to wrest a single inch of the Indian state of J&K nor have they sowed seeds of inter-religious conflict in the country. Indian democracy, its secular fabric and economic rise is inherently and fundamentally strong and resilient!!
    US and NATO have never given India due credit for our tremendous experience in knowing the AF-PAK region up-close. We wish well of US and NATO efforts in AF-PAK, atleast more than the deceiving and conniving Pakistani Army, ISI. Mind you, we never were, never are and never will be against the people of Pakistan. The real trouble maker is the Pakistan Army who flourishes on the grand ‘gifts’ from China, sadly the US, and its own profitable businesses in Pakistan. It cares a hoot for the people of pakistan, its elected government and the world at large.
    Let me explain the ‘factory’ of jihad it has set up. This factory is as profitable as Microsoft, with a ytearly turn-over of 1 billion US dollars, hight tech weaponry and diplomatic support against India, in return for its farcial support in the Long War.
    Pakistan Army has created and nurtured Punjabi, Pashtoon and Afghani jihadis (with increasing number of Chechens, Arabs, Central Asians etc) as a secondary army or foot soldiers or mercenaries. Some of them it send over into the Indian state of J&K for a proxy war that hurts the population of the sate and is a grave human rights violation in itself. The rest it sends to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is just a theatre for war. It is a bottomless pit. Jihadis from Afghanistan attack the strongest country there is (Soviets, US + NATO and later maybe China and India?) The world is made to believe that Afghnistan was the culprit. Before armies pour into Afghanistan for revenge, the real perpetrators quitely slip back into Pakistan in the safe refuge of their creators, Pak Army and ISI. Pakistan allows the invading (US + NATO, soviets) armies to safely enter Afghanistan, at first allowing overland access to the landlocked country. The invaders are tricked into believing that Pakistan is helping in the mission. All the while the invaders grow more and more reliant on Pakistan for supply routes, intelligence and resources, upto a point where their help becomes absolutely essential and unaviodable for the entire mission. Now that the Pak army realizes that they are indispensible for the war effort, it begins to show its true colors. The jihadis in Pakistan begin their guerilla war. Hit in Afghanistan and run back into Pakistan where the US cannot follow. All the US and NATO army finds in deserted Afghanistan are ghost tracks, and footprints leading into Pakistan. And Pakistan knows now that US and NATO has already commited so many resorces into the wrong place (Afghanistan) that they no longer have the will and resources to act upon Pakistan. Plus Pakistan already has the power to choke their supply routes. Thus US and NATO continue piling billions of dollars and latest high tech weaponry on Pakistan army just to survive in Afghanistan!! Once their morale hits rock bottom, the invading army retreats, the jihadis once again enter Afghanistan, triumphant and dirty rich with money, weapons and new recruits and ready to replicate the same profitable exercise on the next superpower.
    Pak army fighting jihadis in Pakistan is a farce. No dead bodies have shown up, no captured weapons and it is just mistreating its own citizens. Also, it is attacking (or is claiming to) only those jihadis who threaten the state of Pakistan itself and not US + NATO or India.
    My dear American an NATO friends, heed a small advise from us Indians. DO NOT TRUST THE PAK ARMY AND ISI!!

  • T Ruth says:

    Thank you for your perspective from being on the ground.
    Do you have any sense of how the Balochis would respond if the US initiated drone attacks in that area? What are you hearing about the Quetta Shura and the possibility that the ISI may be protecting Mullah Omar and others in Karachi, or is this just a diversionary tactic to deny the Americans a reason to initiate action in Balochistan?
    Where you are, what do the people commonly believe about the whereabouts of Usama and Zawahiri? Sorry to pose so many questions, but its very interesting to get the local view into these conversations.
    Khuda Hafiz

  • Scott says:

    What the US-Pakistan relationship needs most is constant CLARITY. The US stated, and restated and restated position should be that the US will unabashedly pursue enemy targets where ever they are. If the Pakistan government can not or will not police its own state and rid itself of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, then its airspace and borders should be irrelevant to the US. Also, every dollar of US aid money given to Pakistan needs to be accounted for. If the Pakistanis are incapable of using that aid to effectively fight the threat, the money spigot needs to be shut off.

  • T Ruth says:

    I’d say if you can’t change the rules of the game, change the game.
    Stop playing this marathon game of chess with Pakistan, especially if its too much of a mess and you don’t have enough horses and pawns and can’t knock down the castles and bishops.
    Play dominos instead, starting with Balochistan. It will be cheaper, faster, less messier.
    Pakistan is an artificial concept, a failed project, and a global problem (esp with its nukes). If their army is the glue, i am prepared to sniff at it.
    I understand that the US administration cannot highlight its concern about Pak’s nukes, but surely it cannot also be irresponsible enough to not have a plan.
    With the last 8 yrs of experience with Pakistan, isn’t it just as important to disrupt and dismantle their nuke infrastructure as it is to do in AQ?


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