Saturday, June 30, 2007

Airstrikes in Pakistan

Via Brian Ulrich at American Footprints is this report from the Jamestown Foundation on a new NATO tactic of calling in air strikes against targets in Pakistan:

"On June 19, about two dozen people were killed when a missile hit a madrassa in Datakhel area of North Waziristan agency (Dawn, June 20). Pakistani Army spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad was quick to declare that 'a group of militants were making explosives and there was an explosion,' giving the impression that it was an accident at a terrorist training facility. The coalition spokesman in Kabul, Colonel David Accetta, confirmed that 'we have no indications that we have fired anything across the border into Pakistan.' In a matter of hours, however, it became obvious from press reports that a missile strike had occurred.

"The second incident occurred on June 24 near the shared border. NATO spokespersons confirmed that their forces unknowingly tracked rebels into Pakistani territory and killed more than 10 civilians. While apologizing for the loss of innocent lives, a NATO spokesperson clearly maintained that 'the strikes had been carried out in coordination with the Pakistani military'....

Air strikes in general are not a good thing in a counterinsurgency. 4th Generation warfare expert, William Lind, asserts that absent a license to commit genocide, the proper number of air strikes called for by the counterinsurgent force in a year is zero:

To put it bluntly, there is no surer or faster way to lose in 4GW than by calling in airstrikes. It is a disaster on every level. Physically, it inevitably kills far more civilians than enemies, enraging the population against us and driving them into the arms of our opponents. Mentally, it tells the insurgents we are cowards who only dare fight them from 20,000 feet in the air.

Morally, it turns us into Goliath, a monster every real man has to fight.

As Cernig just pointed out in the previous post, air strikes are increasing in Afghanistan with the predictable blowback as innocent civilians are being killed. Taliban and Pashtun nationalist guerrillas are able to predict the probable reaction of US forces and commanders to a sharp engagement --- call in air and artillery and blast the problem to smithereens --- and have been able to take advantage of that mindset.

This same dynamic will occur in the northern tribal and frontier regions that have successfully fought the Pakistani military to a standstill and thus created a temporary autonomous zone in which no government officially exists. Pro-Pashtun, pro-Taliban and anti-US, anti-Musharaff sentiments will only intensify. This cost may be strategically justified if the airstrikes are used to kill Osama Bin Laden which will increase American moral and morale cohesion, but in most other cases, this seems like a good way to create more enemies and more instability in an area where there is already too many of both.

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