Border Post Attack Fallout Continues: No Obama Apology; Pakistan Threatens WOT Role

Pakistan and the US continue to provide widely differing accounts of the NATO attack on two border posts just inside the Pakistan border that killed 24 Pakistani troops early Saturday morning. Although both sides have adjusted their stories somewhat in the intervening time, the US still claims that NATO forces were under fire from across the border and Pakistan insists the attack was unprovoked.

Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations released a video of the aftermath of the attack. More description of the video is provided by Dawn, but the presence of the large, established buildings at the peak of the mountain ridge fits with this description quoted in my post from Wednesday:

“This was a visible, well-made post, on top of ridges, made of concrete. Militants don’t operate from mountaintops, from concrete structures.”

Meanwhile, as MadDog pointed out, the New York Times reports that the Obama administration has decided not to have the President issue a formal apology:

On Monday, Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, told a group of White House officials that a formal video statement from Mr. Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Washington from cratering, administration officials said. The ambassador, speaking by videoconference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible, the officials recounted.

Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Gosh, yes.  Foreign policy should always be conducted with an eye toward not giving the pack of frothing curs (no offense, MadDog!) chasing the Republican Presidential nomination any red meat! In the meantime, in this same article, a “former senior American official” told the Times that the attack on the posts lasted only 15-20 minutes and was at the end of a running battle with the Taliban.  Pakistan continues to maintain that the attacks lasted nearly two hours and were unprovoked.

In addition to Pakistan boycotting the upcoming conference on the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan now is threatening to discontinue its role in the War on Terror:

“Enough is enough. The government will not tolerate any incident of spilling even a single drop of any civilian or soldier’s blood,” The News newspaper on Thursday quoted Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as telling a Senate committee on foreign affairs.

“Pakistan’s role in the war on terror must not be overlooked,” Khar said, suggesting Pakistan could end its support for the U.S. war on militancy. Despite opposition at home, Islamabad backed Washington after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

However, in a bit of extremely bad timing, it appears that a government office in Peshawar was bombed early this morning, illustrating that Pakistan has its own internal terrorism threat.  Choosing just which terror sources not to fight could become difficult.

Adding further to the cross-border confusion, we learn that two Pakistanis were killed by NATO troops about 15 miles inside Afghanistan.  Relatives claim the two were in Helmand Province to visit family.   Also, seven Pakistanis have been kidnapped near Kabul.

In a more promising development, though, we see that a border incident involving heavy artillery fire was defused prior to any loss of life:

A cross-border incident involving NATO and Pakistani forces was quickly defused early on Wednesday with no loss of life, according to Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, the spokesman for the American-led international coalition here.

Few details of the incident were immediately available but it apparently involved heavy artillery fire across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

/snip/

In the latest border incident, General Jacobson said it was reassuring that normal channels of cooperation and communication had been opened to resolve the issue.

“We haven’t got the details yet but the most important thing is the normal methods of cooperation worked and there were no casualties, no damage despite heavy firing,” he said.

If the “normal channels of cooperation and communications” “opened” and “worked” in this case, why didn’t they work on Saturday morning?  It’s especially troubling that the AP account of this story, carried in Dawn, has as its headline “Pakistan resumes some cooperation: Nato”.  If it turns out that the NATO attack on the border posts did indeed continue for nearly two hours despite communication from Pakistan, it would appear that it has been NATO’s lack of cooperation on communication that created the current crisis, not Pakistan’s.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
24 replies
  1. eCAHNomics says:

    Hi Jim,

    I learned something very important from a Dallek book a couple of years ago. It was the audio version I borrowed from the library. As I started listening, I thought Dallek dashed it off as a money maker when some Nixon tapes were newly released. It seemed so superficial. But the more I listened the more fascinated I became. Nixon & Kissinger talked about VN ONLY in terms of how it influenced domestic elections. There was almost no discussion of the merits of any particular policy having to do with VN itself.

    That was the message of the book. There is no U.S. foreign policy except insofar as it allows the U.S. to rule the world in a way that will win domestic votes.

    Therefore, O’s excuse for not apologizing to Pak bc it would open him to R criticism in the election makes perfect sense. Perfect sense in the perverted world of U.S. PTB, that is.

  2. ron says:

    The attack was approved at the highest levels in D.C. which says much about current public opinion regarding expanding the Afgan War and the need to provide background noise in light of the Euro liquidity problems considering the response from the FED which pushed down the value of the dollar. The FED’s policy creating money velocity via leverage creates oversize debt that neither the common wage earner can payoff with productive wages nor Nation States via there normal tax structure. The war on Terror provides diversion from the abnormal rate of debt expansion both public and private.

  3. lysias says:

    @ron: What evidence is there that the attack was approved at the highest levels in D.C. And, by “highest levels in D.C.”, what levels do you mean? Usually that means the President.

  4. matt carmody says:

    @eCAHNomics: That’s exactly how LBJ looked at the war, afraid that if he pulled out Goldwater and the loony right would eat his lunch in ’64.

    All I keep seeing when I read about this debacle is Caesar Romero in the Little Princess and how easily the people who were fighting foreigners were able to get their people to support them.

    Just as it has always been, “we” are not going to be in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or Iraq for that matter, forever, our presence in Germany and S. Korea, notwithstanding. Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap knew that we would leave their country eventually and they used that knowledge strategically. The Afghani warlords know we’re not there forever. Apparently the only person in Afghanistan who doesn’t realize it is Hamid Karzai, but he’s a carpetbagger anyway having served Unocal outside of Afghanistan before being anointed by the Bush Crime Family.

  5. justbetty says:

    As related by someone serving in Helmand Province, things there are worse than ever. This is a lost cause- and a huge waste of US resources.

  6. marc says:

    Pakistan’s ISI says one thing NATOs ISAF says the opposite. Two known habitual liars with conflicting stories means we are unlikely to ever know the truth.

  7. ron says:

    @lysias:

    Sending attacking airships and drones at structured targets on foreign soil requires coordination from the top down. The idea that this was some random event that just happened is like saying that someone at NASA launched a manned space flight by accident!

  8. Arbusto says:

    What a rats nest. While Afghanistan is arguably the worst Country to fight an asymmetrical war in, its neighbor Pakistan is at best an ambivalent ally to our close presence. The ISI seems particularly effective at plotting, assassinations and backing terrorist organizations, while the Civilian government is highly ineffective in dealing with the ISI and USA. Obamas continuing ignorance/stupidity towards Pakistan will move them even faster into the waiting hands of the PRC. Another clusterfuck in action.

  9. eCAHNomics says:

    @matt carmody: Yes, I picked up the LBJ part after I listened to Nixon & Kissinger. It was N&K that originally taught me the lesson. Plenty of other examples. Grenada comes readily to mind.

  10. rugger9 says:

    @ron: #8
    Not sure I agree with the DC part, this kind of thing is very much the purview of the local commander [ISAF, I mean]. Since the current claim is essentially a hot pursuit one, the DC input would have already been placed into the rules of engagement understood by ISAF. Given the drone attack follies of the last few months, and the increased sensitivity of the Pakistani government in response, a prudent commander would be damn sure of his targets in sensitive areas, and that concern would be reinforced from DC on down.

    So, my feeling is that this was a deliberate attack, either we were duped by a false flag or a Pakistani faction engaged in a private war, or we’re sending a message about the blind eye of the Pakistani government towards the Haqqani and the Taliban. Since we can’t tell who are friends are, really, it’s time to get out.

  11. CTuttle says:

    Aloha, Jim…! Great post…! Have you taken a gander at Wikileaks newest treasure trove… The Spy Files…

    …Today WikiLeaks began releasing a database of hundreds of documents from as many as 160 intelligence contractors in the mass surveillance industry.

  12. CTuttle says:

    @Jim White: I posted it over at MOA too and told ’em Happy Hunting…! ;-)

    I do so look forward to the fireworks…!

    Btw, did ya see this one… Mayor Bloomberg: ‘I Have My Own Army’

    “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

  13. ron says:

    @rugger9: Just a reminder that the soil we attacked has N weapons, somehow I doubt that local commanders have that much control but anything is possible. I had experience in VN 67 with b-52 raids in Cambodia. Every mission was authorized from D.C. and provided with feedback as to its impact including sending troops to view the sites.

  14. lysias says:

    @ron:

    Every mission was authorized from D.C. and provided with feedback as to its impact including sending troops to view the sites.

    From where in D.C., White House or Pentagon?

  15. ron says:

    @lysias: @lysias: I only had a top secret crypto security clearance my contact was at the Pentagon level while other members of the team that had higher need to know classifications dealt with White House elements.

Comments are closed.