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  • Technorati: graph / links

    America Conducts Al-Qaeda Raid on Pakistani Soil


    by Shariq on 4th September, 2008 at 4:12 pm    

    Pakistani politicians are furious that American soldiers carried out a raid against alleged Al-Qaeda operatives on Pakistani territory.

    This is a very tangled issue. Firstly, the Pakistanis are alleging that the raid was based on faulty intelligence and resulted in the killing of innocent citizens, including women and children.

    On the other hand it is clear that Pakistan has been at best ignoring and at worst supporting the build up of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in its tribal regions for a while now. What is not so clear is whether the new political and military regimes in charge of the country were going to continue with this policy or change tack. After all, the PPP lost its leader to an attack by these militants and if it received the backing of General Kiyani, would be looking to defeating Taliban forces a priority.

    To make things worse more complicated, the Pakistani government had agreed a ceasefire with militant forces during Ramadan. This could be seen as a continuation of the old policies or a smart, pragmatic step in order to try and take the religion card away from the terrorists. After all, one month isn’t going to make a difference in whether this battle is won or not.

    You also have the legality issue. In my opinion, if American forces were responding to attacks carried out on the Pakistani side of the border then they were perfectly entitled to carry out a small-scale, isolated raid. A strong argument could also be made if the Taliban forces have been launching attacks in Afghanistan from these towns/bases and the Afghan government gave US forces the permission strike back. Of course having the right to do so, doesn’t mean you should, especially when there is a likelihood of civilian casualties.

    Finally there is an inevitable link to the American elections. Obama took a lot of flack for saying that he was willing to go into Pakistan. I wasn’t one of the people criticising him because as I’ve outlined, you do have the right to self-defence if people are attacking you from the other side of the border. Its not like he was suggesting a full scale invasion. On the other hand, John McCain said that his comments were irresponsible.

    You now have the bizarre scenario that Obama is demonstrating his foreign policy credentials by saying that the Bush administration is implementing his ideas. I think I’m beginning to sense the idea behind the ‘What Bush Got Right’ Newsweek cover by Fareed Zakaria.



      |   Trackback link   |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Current affairs, Pakistan, South Asia, United States




    27 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Ravi Naik — on 4th September, 2008 at 4:13 pm  

      You now have the bizarre scenario that Obama is demonstrating his foreign policy credentials by saying that the Bush administration is implementing his ideas. I think I’m beginning to sense the idea behind the ‘What Bush Got Right’ Newsweek cover by Fareed Zakaria.

      Rumbold is awfully quite these days. :)

    2. Boyo — on 4th September, 2008 at 10:56 pm  

      The “new” Cold War is being played out between the West and Pakistan. Clearly NATO would have cleaned out the tribal regions had Pakistan not got nukes. Instead they have them and so are insulated from serious intervention and can employ client forces to further their agenda, not unlike the old CCCP.

    3. Desi Italiana — on 4th September, 2008 at 11:02 pm  

      Namaste Shariq:

      “Pakistani politicians are furious that American soldiers carried out a raid against alleged Al-Qaeda operatives on Pakistani territory.”

      From my understanding, Pakistani politicians are furious that Americans killed largely innocent villagers, something that has happened quite often. US forces have bombed Pakistan in the past, and Pakistani officials don’t say much until Pakistanis get pissed off when civilians are killed.

      “You also have the legality issue. In my opinion, if American forces were responding to attacks carried out on the Pakistani side of the border then they were perfectly entitled to carry out a small-scale, isolated raid.”

      What parts of IL are you thinking about?

      “Obama took a lot of flack for saying that he was willing to go into Pakistan.”

      I may be wrong, but hasn’t America already gone into Pakistan?

      “I wasn’t one of the people criticising him because as I’ve outlined, you do have the right to self-defence if people are attacking you from the other side of the border.”

      Sorry, I haven’t read what you’ve outlined before, but I don’t know if you are talking about the ‘other side’ being Afghanistan where ‘we’ are getting attacked by Pakistanis.

    4. Desi Italiana — on 4th September, 2008 at 11:04 pm  

      ““I wasn’t one of the people criticising him because as I’ve outlined, you do have the right to self-defence if people are attacking you from the other side of the border.””

      Yup, that is why I cannot wait until the US invades Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the presumed hijackers were from. We have the right to self-defense when these mo’fo’s come to attack us on our soil!

    5. shariq — on 5th September, 2008 at 1:19 am  

      Thanks for your comments Desi. Let me clarify what parts of IL I’m thinking of.

      If Pakistan is being used as a base to launch attacks on Afghanistan, then the way I understand it, Afghanistan has the right to self-defence.

      Any action would have to be proportional and so limited to attacking the bases on the border. It wouldn’t justify a full-scale invasion or attacking bases which weren’t near the border.

      America would also be entitled to self-defence on behalf of Afghanistan if it was authorised to do so. They used this justification in the first Gulf war when Kuwait formally invited them to help defeat Iraq.

      There was a small typo in my piece when I said ‘attacks carried out on the pakistani side of the border’ rather than ‘from’ the pakistani side of the border in afghanistan.

      Today is the first time America has gone into Pakistan without Pakistan’s permission which is why it has become such an issue.

      Btw, I think there is a clear difference b/w attacking Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda was based and had its training camps and Saudi, where the terrorists were from. If the 7/7 guys had gone into America instead, America wouldn’t have had the right to attack the UK!

    6. digitalcntrl — on 5th September, 2008 at 2:58 am  

      “If Pakistan is being used as a base to launch attacks on Afghanistan, then the way I understand it, Afghanistan has the right to self-defence ….Today is the first time America has gone into Pakistan without Pakistan’s permission which is why it has become such an issue.”

      No offense but debating the legality of crossing over the “border” to attack Taliban/Al Qaeda bases sounds a bit facetious. While lines on a map say its Pakistan, the on the ground reality is that the NWFP is not really part of Pakistan. The Pakistani state/military has virtually no control over the area and does do any of the normal functions as state is supposed to do. Heck the Taliban are even collecting taxes from the locals.

      http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20088\15\story_15-8-2008_pg7_11

    7. digitalcntrl — on 5th September, 2008 at 3:12 am  

      “From my understanding, Pakistani politicians are furious that Americans killed largely innocent villagers, something that has happened quite often. US forces have bombed Pakistan in the past, and Pakistani officials don’t say much until Pakistanis get pissed off when civilians are killed.”

      Thats sounds a bit tongue in cheek Desi. Since when did the deaths of a bunch poor villagers matter at all to Pakistani politicians or Pakistan in general? Human life in South Asia matters little.

    8. douglas clark — on 5th September, 2008 at 4:09 am  

      shariq @ 5,

      Please explain this in more detail:

      Btw, I think there is a clear difference b/w attacking Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda was based and had its training camps and Saudi, where the terrorists were from. If the 7/7 guys had gone into America instead, America wouldn’t have had the right to attack the UK!

      These are two different wars, I think.

      To be as clear as I can be, the US was attacked on 9/11 by Al-Qaeda, which was based in Afghanistan and the NWFP of Pakistan. I, and more to the point, the UN, had no issue with the complete failure of the government on Afghanistan to give up Osama Bin Laden. Which, in my opinion, was incredibly stupid, but there you go. The rest of that is history.

      Do you imagine for one minute that had the 7/7 bombers attacked the US rather than us, that we would have taken an Afghanistani approach to foreign policy? No, we wouldn’t. We as a polity, would have co-operated with the US to rid ourselves of these troublesome princes of darkness. There lies the difference.

      Although, as Desi says, why the US attacked Iraq rather than Saudi is beyond comprehension.

    9. Shariq — on 5th September, 2008 at 5:23 am  

      Douglas, I was responding to what I thought was a facetious point by Desi, about wanting to invade Saudi Arabia.

      What makes the situation in the tribal areas of Pakistan different is, as digital has pointed out, the Taliban have set up their own bases (even collecting taxes) and using them to launch traditional cross-border attacks.

      Given the fact that these bases and areas should be relatively easy to identify (although the alleged death of civilians suggests this wasn’t the case on this occasion), you can make a direct response to the aggression.

      Even though Saudi nationals were involved in 9/11, where they came from and the networks they operated in were very nebulous. It would have been impossible for America to root them out without invading the country and installing their own government. Clearly this would have been disproportional.

      The main common thread about all of the hijackers was that they had received training at Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The Afghan government’s backing of Al-Qaeda’s actions was an act of war and America was entitled to respond in self-defence.

      Therefore I would argue that invading Saudi Arabia in response to 9/11 would be closer to the England scenario I identified above rather than the Afghanistan scenario.

      To give another example, there used to be jihadist camps in Pakistani Kashmir which were used to launch attacks in Indian Kashmir. In response India would be legally entitled to attack those bases (they didn’t because it would have been reckless escalation and they weren’t perfect themselves), but that wouldn’t entitle them to invade Pakistan.

      I hope that makes sense.

    10. Sunny — on 5th September, 2008 at 5:51 am  

      good points shariq. Very dangerous times for Pakistan though…

    11. douglas clark — on 5th September, 2008 at 6:41 am  

      Shaiq @ 9,

      Thanks for that.

      What makes the situation in the tribal areas of Pakistan different is, as digital has pointed out, the Taliban have set up their own bases (even collecting taxes) and using them to launch traditional cross-border attacks.

      Well, I’d expect the US to see that as just an extension of their UN resolution, mandate, whatever. Justifiably?

      Just asking.

    12. Boyo — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:10 am  

      Ho ho ho. I take it attacking Saudi is a joke? Golly, this is starting to sound like Harry’s Place.

      Not that I don’t find the Saudi’s every bit as unpleasant as the Taliban, mind.

      What makes Pakistan different, oh students of geo-politics, is that it’s actively backing the Taliban (as it did in the past) in order to destabilise Afghanistan. Pakistan is no more (indeed I suspect rather less) of a “friend” to the West than Putin’s Russia.

      Saudi Arabia on the other hand, would love to see the back of OBL et al, whose PRIMARY objective has always been to replace the House of Saud. He actually has nothing against the US or indeed West in particular - he simply wants to remove them from interference in (his version) of the Ummah. He has even “reassured” the West he will keep the oil tap on!

      Saudi Arabia does not need to be invaded - any country has the right to develop it’s own polity without external intervention except in the most extreme circumstances (I was going to say Rwanda, but then I remembered the French were behind that, whoops) - the West simply needs to act firmly to curb its promotion of Wahhabism at home.

    13. Ahsan — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:36 am  

      The tribal areas are about 20-25% of NWFP, so lets not make the whole province under the control of the Taliban just yet.

      Additionally are we quite sure that BB was killed by them.

    14. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 9:38 am  

      Shariq:

      “If Pakistan is being used as a base to launch attacks on Afghanistan, then the way I understand it, Afghanistan has the right to self-defence.”

      “America would also be entitled to self-defence on behalf of Afghanistan if it was authorised to do so. They used this justification in the first Gulf war when Kuwait formally invited them to help defeat Iraq.”

      Agreed about American being entitled to defend Afghanistan if the Afghan gov’t gives its consent.

      However, there has been a debate for a LONG TIME in Afghanistan about the US violating IL in terms of civilian deaths and disproportionate use; Karzai has said on several occassions that he will seek to reign in and control the actions of US and NATO forces (which he hasn’t done).

      I was being facetious about invading SA instead of Afghanistan (I’m not really down for invading any country), but since you went into it:

      I understand your argument, though I think 1) it is a matter of interpreting IL, and your argument is very closely aligned to the US gov’t interpretation to justify Afghan invasion and preserving the status quo of powerful countries’ use of power and 2) there are many, many articles in IL journals and elsewhere which deal with the different interpretations of the legality of the US invasion of Afghanistan, which I am sure you are aware of. In terms of the ’self-defense’ argument you keep pulling up w/r/t and 9/11 and its after effects:

      1. First of all, since we are talking about IL and articles that are used to claim self-defense to invade a country, I assume we are adhering to IL and the UN. The UNSC never authorized the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

      2. Secondly, you are conflating armed attacks and criminal acts.

      Article 51:
      Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security . Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

      9/11 attacks were not armed attacks by the Afghan gov’t; they fall under crimes against humanity (criminal act), and I believe that 9/11 can be classified as such. If we were adhering to IL properly, then anyone related to those attacks would be tried in a domestic jurisdiction of any country, including the US, rather than invading a country.

      In fact, adhering to IL, Iraq would have legally had the right to invade the US in self-defense.

      More here on Afghanistan, article 51:

      http://www.asil.org/insights/insigh77.htm

      3. following 9/11, there weren’t any ‘imminent’ attacks on behalf of the 2001 Afghan gov’t lurking in the shadows.

      Lastly:

      “Btw, I think there is a clear difference b/w attacking Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda was based and had its training camps and Saudi, where the terrorists were from. If the 7/7 guys had gone into America instead, America wouldn’t have had the right to attack the UK!”

      See previous point about armed attacks and invasion. As far as I know, the 7/7 episode isn’t defined as ‘armed attack’- it should be dealt with the same way as the 9/11 stuff: people being tried in a jurisdiction. So invasion of any kind- whether it is targeting the country of the criminal’s nationality or provided ‘training’- is a moot point.

      (Sidenote: based on your logic about training and self-defense, I assume you’d be ok with various Latin American gov’ts attacking the US for all the training it provided to terrorists in Latin America.)

      Good night!

    15. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 9:56 am  

      Shariq:

      “To give another example, there used to be jihadist camps in Pakistani Kashmir which were used to launch attacks in Indian Kashmir. In response India would be legally entitled to attack those bases (they didn’t because it would have been reckless escalation and they weren’t perfect themselves), but that wouldn’t entitle them to invade Pakistan.”

      But the US actually invaded Afghanistan, not simply attacking bases, and it toppled a gov’t. I don’t see why, if one supports the US invasion of Afghanistan, then why they wouldn’t think the US was entitled to invade Pakistan, or India invading Pakistan for Pakistani-based insurgents.

    16. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:07 am  

      Now the question would be (at least for me), the various interpretations of what constitutes an ‘armed attack’ (act of war, by a state, troops, systematic attack as opposed to a hijacking of planes), ‘harboring’ people (ie training and providing a haven), etc. (Note: the US gov’t itself refers to the 9/11 incidents as ‘terrorist’ attacks, not armed attacks):

      Interesting paper I came across which tries to grapple with this both pre-9/11 and post 9/11:

      http://law.nus.edu.sg/sybil/downloads/coming/Hofmeister_SYBIL_2007.pdf

      Haven’t read it yet, but it looks interesting.

      Ok, really off to bed now!

    17. douglas clark — on 5th September, 2008 at 10:51 am  

      Ahsan,

      Why are you bringing up Benazir Bhutto? That has nothing much to do with the geo-politics, does it? The NWFP does, however appear to have links to the Taliban. Correct me if I am wrong.

      Desi,

      I’d agree in principle with what you had to say at 14. However, the complete failure of the government of Afghanistan to bow to the UN, makes all sorts of arguements moot, I’d have thought. Frankly, the nonsense about frequent silences pro those that died in 9/11 made me a bit queasy about what we, the West, intended to do next.

      I remember thinking, during one of these silences, what the fuck are we allowing here? The complete failure to understand or sort out Afghanistan subsequent to the invasion says nothing positive about Western interventionism. We had a chance to fix it. We didn’t. Enough said.

    18. digitalcntrl — on 5th September, 2008 at 1:31 pm  

      Desi-
      “But the US actually invaded Afghanistan, not simply attacking bases, and it toppled a gov’t. I don’t see why, if one supports the US invasion of Afghanistan, then why they wouldn’t think the US was entitled to invade Pakistan, or India invading Pakistan for Pakistani-based insurgents.”

      The scenarios are not similar. A patron state financially supporting insurgent/guerilla groups is not a pretext for war (e.g. Pakistan and Kashmiri insurgents,U.S. and anti-communist guerillas in Latin America, Cuba and pro-communist forces in Congo,Bolivia,Angola, etc.), if it were half the world would have a pretext for a all out war on the other. The relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban/Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is far different, both are terrorist groups who use suicide bombing attacks on the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan proper to advance their goals. And contrary to Shariq’s viewpoint I would argue that the current Afghan state/NATO has every right for general warfare into places like FATA as it is de facto a reconstituted Taliban state.

    19. JD — on 5th September, 2008 at 1:34 pm  

      Does anyone actually believe that these raids in Pakistan are going to do anything to weaken the Taliban?

      Or will it just cement the common perception in Pakistan that the USA and NATO are waging a War on Islam rather than a War on Terror.

    20. Chris E — on 5th September, 2008 at 2:58 pm  

      However, there has been a debate for a LONG TIME in Afghanistan about the US violating IL in terms of civilian deaths and disproportionate use.

      It’s largely a function of the sort of military they have chosen to deploy, so nothing is likely to change.

      As long as there are only (relatively) small numbers of men on the ground who rely on air support - who bomb tall people on the basis they may be OBL - such incidents are bound to reoccur.

      Does anyone actually believe that these raids in Pakistan are going to do anything to weaken the Taliban?

      I don’t think anyone has a good idea of how they would solve this problem long term. Boming everything in sight doesn’t work, and the NWFP is the graveyard of idealism.

    21. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:14 pm  

      JD:

      “Does anyone actually believe that these raids in Pakistan are going to do anything to weaken the Taliban?”

      W/r/t FATA, just to give a quick background on FATA (from what I know), it is ruled by the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901, and heir to the British Empire. The Pakistani state cannot exercise jurisdiction there because of its constitution, but the ‘protected areas’ are under direct executive control, while the ‘unprotected areas’ are administered through jirgas. The problem with FATA is that it has is own governance; criminal and civil cases are not tried in court. More importantly, there is underdevelopment that has yet to be addressed. This Pakistani gov’t link (which is pretty good in terms of explaining the set-up of FATA) can give more info: http://fata.gov.pk/subpages/admnsystem.php

      Many- including FATA journalists and lawyers- have asked to abolish the FRC, saying that it has worsened the situation in FATA, a point which I agree with. This is one of the reasons why it is a sort of no-man’s land.

      Bombing, raids, and assassinations will not really do anything effective. Governance and an improved life (which will strengthen civil society, both informally and formally) are key here.

      More stuff here, including on rigged elections in 2002 whereby Islamists won, (which then caused the entire western world-including the US-to say that Pakistan needed a dictatorship to beat back the “Islamic Peril”):

      http://harpers.org/archive/2008/02/hbc-90002504

    22. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:20 pm  

      Anyway, engaging on this thread reminded me of the pitfalls of IL. It took me back to when I was knee-deep in international law, and how I thought that it really is sort of a rhetorical exercise. No one enforces IL, sticking to IL is consensual, powerful states are let off the hook, and states will generally do what they want, whether it adheres to IL or not (case in point: US in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan).

    23. Desi Italiana — on 5th September, 2008 at 8:26 pm  

      More on the fault lines running through FATA:

      http://www.aitpn.org/IRQ/vol-II/Issue-02/issue06.htm

    24. digitalcntrl — on 6th September, 2008 at 1:38 am  

      @19

      “Does anyone actually believe that these raids in Pakistan are going to do anything to weaken the Taliban?”

      In a word, yes. Heck even Ahmed Rashid argues for a far more aggressive posture.

      http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/interview+ahmed+rashid/2307377

      “Or will it just cement the common perception in Pakistan that the USA and NATO are waging a War on Islam rather than a War on Terror.”

      Do you honestly believe that such perceptions would exist whether they are raids or not? Such people seem only to indulge in playing the victim instead of having any sense of introspection. Woe is me my clan/tribe/race/religion is being treated unjustly by the US/West/India/Pakistan/etc.

    25. Zak — on 6th September, 2008 at 12:11 pm  

      NWFP and FATA are two separate entities, the old system in the under developed FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) was an extension of old British rule, the effects of the Tali and AQ into the region has collapsed the old system in something akin to Iraq (in a desperately poor and cut of communication wise region) It used to be impossible for anyone to move around in the tribal region without govt knowledge and movement within the tribal belt was virtually impossible..thanks to all the outside intervention that’s all gone and you have a vacuum that suits the tali and AQ.

      NWFP is run by something closer to a modern govt, it had electioons and the local secularists swept most areas especially the militant dominated ones..in retaliation people have been targetted and killed in some cases people i knew.

    26. Ashik — on 7th September, 2008 at 2:33 pm  

      The Pakistanis get billions of dollars in military & civilian aid from Uncle Sam. They have sold their sovereignty in return. Therefore Uncle can do whatever. What are a few dead Pakistanis here and there anyway?

    27. shariq — on 7th September, 2008 at 7:25 pm  

      Desi, yeah I’m not as in touch with international law. i was using it as a way of assessing the rights and wrongs of the issues rather than the enforceability.

      Digital, I think if the US does take action it has to be focused and sustained. Odd raids here and there don’t really do anything.



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