Pakistani fire turns back American helicopters
Recent events have led to a rise in anti-American sentiment in Pakistan
You have to wonder how much military conflict there can be between two allies before they become enemies. Just yesterday, Pakistani units fired at American helicopters when they crossed the border from Afghanistan:
Pakistani security officials said on Monday that troops had fired on U.S. military helicopters and forced them to turn back to Afghanistan. According to the security officials, the incident took place near Angor Adda, a village in the tribal region of South Waziristan where officials have said U.S. commandos in helicopters raided a suspected al Qaeda and Taliban camp earlier this month.
"The U.S. choppers came into Pakistan by just 100 to 150 meters at Angor Adda. Even then our troops did not spare them, opened fire on them and they turned away," said one security official.
While Angor Adda villagers and officials supported that account, the U.S. and Pakistani military denied the report.
Pakistani and American officials have to deny that incidents like this take place, because neither side wants to go to war. But it's unlikely that villagers and Pakistani security forces would conspire to fabricate an incident like this, and hard to see how war can be avoided if Pakistani and American soldiers begin killing one another. Tensions between the two countries have become inflamed recently, thanks to Bush's new policy of allowing Special Forces units to conduct raids against suspected Taliban strongholds inside Pakistan, without the permission of the Pakistani government.
It's possible that the Pakistani government would confine their opposition to raids inside their country if they had been effective. But recent raids have killed dozens of Pakistani civilians and failed to kill any al Qaeda or Taliban leaders. Under these circumstances, there's no way that Pakistan's new government would be able to maintain power while allowing American raids.
This comes at a time when Bush is telling his commanders in Afghanistan that he can only fulfill half of their recent request for more troops, so you might think that Bush would do everything possible to avoid starting yet another war with either Iran or Pakistan. But instead, he seems to be doing everything he can to antagonize those countries. General Jeffrey Schloesser, the commander of American forces on the Afghan/Pakistani frontier, threatened to start "a new kind of war" if Pakistan continues to allow militants to cross to and from Afghanistan. And he's been taking steps toward a blockade of Iran, in what some analysts say is an attempt to lock his successor into an aggressive anti-Iranian policy.
So to recap, Bush is telling his commanders that we don't have enough troops to fulfill their requests. But at the same time, he's engaging in increasingly hostile and provocative actions directed at Iran and Pakistan. That doesn't seem very smart, when you consider the fact that Iran is as large, in terms of both area and population, as Iraq and Afghanistan put together. And Pakistan is the world's 6th most populous country, with 172 million inhabitants. And Pakistan has nuclear weapons.
So this is foreign policy during the Bush era. And John McCain is promising more of the same.
(cross posted at appletree)