Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Afghanistan War Spreads to Pakistan

Remember a recent clash at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan in which the Pakistanis claimed American forces had attacked and killed a dozen of their soldiers and the United States insisted it had attacked Taliban insurgents?

Turns out they were both right.

A story in today's Guardian claims Pakistan's border troops have been massively infiltrated by Afghan Taliban insurgents:

"The Pakistani Frontier Corps has been heavily infiltrated and influenced by Taliban militants, sometimes joining in attacks on coalition forces, according to classified US 'after-action' reports compiled following clashes on the border.

According to those familiar with the material, regarded as deeply sensitive by the Pentagon in view of America's fragile relationship with Pakistan, there are 'box loads' of such reports at US bases along the length of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Details of the level of infiltration emerged yesterday on a day when five more US-led soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan. Four of the soldiers died in a bomb and gunfire attack outside the southern city of Kandahar.

Nato officials have reported a dramatic increase in cross-border incidents compared with the same period last year. The US documents describe the direct involvement of Frontier Corps troops in attacks on the Afghan National Army and coalition forces, and also detail attacks launched so close to Frontier Corps outposts that Pakistani co-operation with the Taliban is assumed.

'The reality,' said a source familiar with the situation on the ground, 'is that there are units so opposed to what the coalition is doing and so friendly to the other side that when the opportunity comes up they will fire on Afghan and coalition troops. And this is not random. It can be exceptionally well co-ordinated.'

Frontier Corps personnel have in the past been implicated in the past in murdering US and Afghan officers. In the most high-profile case, a Frontier Corps member 'assassinated' Major Larry J Bauguess during a border mediation meeting. In another incident, an Afghan officer was killed. Since then the problem appears to have worsened as the Taliban renew their insurgency on the Afghan side of the border.

The allegation that senior Pakistani officials continue to offer lukewarm assistance to the coalition while offering help to the Taliban is also reiterated in Descent into Chaos, a new book by the veteran Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid."

So, there it is. We now have Pakistani forces not only aiding the Taliban but joining them in firing on us. What are we to do? Help Musharraf stage a coup and restore martial law? Attack Pakistan?

We don't seem to have any good choices left. Don't count on NATO coming up with another two or three-hundred thousand combat troops. Don't count on the US so long as it's stuck in Iraq. We're spread so thin we can't even control our zones in Afghanistan. We hardly have the masses of troops it would take to extend our war into Pakistan. Perhaps the worst part is that we know it and so do they.

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