Seven Years in Afghanistan: From “War on Terror” to “War of Terror”

So in late 2001 the U.S. and allies overthrew the Taliban, a secondary goal, while botching the primary goal which was to annihilate al-Qaeda. The multinational, primarily Arab al-Qaeda forces were bombed and driven over the border into Pakistan. No one seems to have any idea about how many al-Qaeda members were in Afghanistan in late 2001. Bush administration references to “tens of thousands” have been questioned by intelligence specialists. We may be talking, in fact, about hundreds, some of whom, including bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, clearly got away and continue to lead a very flexible and loosely structured movement of militants inspired by, but only tenuously connected to, bin Laden’s isolated circle. That movement has bourgeoned globally as a result of U.S. actions that seem virtually calculated to incite Muslim outrage.

The War Spreads to Pakistan

Nowhere is this the case more than in Pakistan. The flight of al-Qaeda and Taliban members into Pakistan, and Washington’s blithe expectation that Pakistan could or would force the local people to fight them and cooperate in their suppression, has produced the predictable blowback. There is now a substantial Pakistani chapter of the Taliban, while those in Pakistan most disposed to cooperate with Washington meet with the contempt of their own people who see the U.S. as a vicious anti-Muslim bully.

Pakistanis have long perceived the U.S. as Israel’s enabler, as the backer of dictators in power in Muslim countries, as the heartless force behind the decade of sanctions on Iraq. But now they see the U.S. as an aggressor on their own soil. Because it is! According to the New York Times, the CIA “has for several years fired missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted Predator aircraft.” There were three such strikes in 2007, over a dozen so far this year. One in June killed 12 Pakistani soldiers. Recent orders from President Bush now also allow the military’s Special Operations forces to conduct “raids on the soil of an important ally without its permission.” So in addition to drone attacks the Pakistani border faces commando raids supported by gunships. Highlights of last month’s provocations of Pakistan:

Sept. 3: 40 U.S. Special Operations Forces including Navy SEALs swoop down on the village of Musa Nika in Angoor Ada in South Waziristan, killing 15-20. First known ground assault of U.S. troops in Pakistan.??Sept. 8: U.S. drones attack a madrassa in North Waziristan, killing at least 23. (The next day George W. Bush announces that Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan are “all theatres in the same overall struggle.”)

Sept. 12: U.S. drone strikes a home and a former government school near North Waziristan town of Miramshah, killing at least 14 and injuring 12. (Waziristan tribal leaders meet the next day and declare if attacks continue “we will prepare an army to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan” in cooperation with Afghan tribal leaders. Ahsan Iqbal, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, declares, “If [this] continues, then Pakistan can consider pulling out completely from this war on terror.”)

Sept. 15: U.S. helicopters land near village in Angoor Ada, returned toward Afghanistan after troops or tribesmen fired warning shots.

Sept.17: U.S. drone attack kills 7, injures 3 in South Waziristan. This occurs just hours after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits Pakistan to assure military leaders the U.S. would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Sept. 21: Pakistani troops and tribesmen open fire on two U.S. helicopters flying into Pakistani airspace from Pakistan, forced them to retreat.

Sept. 24: Wreckage of U.S. spy drone found in South Waziristan; anonymous Pakistani military officials say it was shot down by tribesmen.

Sept. 25: Pakistani forces fire on U.S. helicopters along Afghan-Pakistan border; U.S./NATO claims choppers were within Afghan airspace.

Sept. 27: Two U.S. jetfighters enter airspace over Angoor Adda, Baghar and Momin Tangi area of South Waziristan for about 25 minutes.

Sept. 30: Tribesmen fire on four drones over North Waziristan; missile fired from drone strikes house, killing four and wounding nine.

Add to these the Oct. 1 U.S. drone attacks house in North Waziristan, killing at least 6. And the Oct 4 drone missile attack on a house in Mohammad Khel, North Waziristan, killing 20, reputedly including “Arab militants,” women and children.

Pakistani civilian and military authorities have repeatedly expressed their indignation over these violations of Pakistan’s sovereignty. On Sept. 20, in his first speech to Parliament since becoming president, Asif Ali Zardari warned, “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism.” Earlier, Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had declared the attacks would not be tolerated, and soon after the commando raid of Sept. 3 Islamabad cut supply lines to NATO troops in Afghanistan. Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar explained, “we have stopped the supply of oil and this will tell how serious we are.” Although the suspension was temporary, it indicates a mounting sense of impatience.

“Reckless actions,” observed Kayani, “only help the militants and further fuel the militancy in the area.” Rand Corporation analysts are saying the same thing: the counter-insurgency efforts are in fact stoking the insurgencies. U.S. officials claim the attacks are all part of a legitimate “War on Terror.” But former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif no doubt speaks for most Pakistanis in averring that “it is unacceptable that while [supposedly] giving peace to the world we make our own country into a killing field.”

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