The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

War on Pakistan?

September 4, 2008

Yesterday, US troops crossed the Pakistan border for the first time — clearly extending the war in Afghanistan into another state. This is from The Washington Post story:

Helicopters carried U.S. and Afghan commandos many miles into Pakistan on Wednesday to stage the first U.S. ground attack against a Taliban target inside the country, Pakistani officials said. At least 20 local people died in the raid, according to the officials.

Pakistan filed a protest and the US military apparently had no comment.

Mohammed Sadiq, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, condemned a “gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and “a grave provocation.” In a written statement, he said his office lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

“Such actions are counterproductive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism,” Sadiq said. “On the contrary, they undermine the very basis of cooperation and may fuel the fire of hatred and violence that we are trying to extinguish.”

I do not really fault Pakistan for this response. Escalation can be dangerous.

Pakistan representatives say this was not a case of “hot pursuit” and that there is no bilateral agreement allowing such attacks in any case.

This is not the first time that the US has extended the “war on terror” into Pakistan — just the first use of ground forces.

In January 2006, the US launched a missile attack on a small village in Pakistan, reportedly because al Qaeda’s number two man was visiting. He was not hit and Pakistan considered the strike an act of war. I previously argued that the attack was too provocative and unjustified given the information at hand.

Last summer, on the heels of a terror NIE finding that al Qaeda had established a “safe haven” in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, US Homeland Security Director Fran Townsend warned that Pakistan could be attacked under the Bush Doctrine of preemption.

Is the US at war with Pakistan?

Incidentally, John McCain has previously said he would not strike Pakistan — even as other prominent Republicans criticized Barack Obama for threatening Pakistan in various ways.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.