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"School bombing exposes Obama's secret war inside Pakistan

Published:

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Why isn't our press all over this?
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From The Sunday Times

February 7, 2010

Source Times Online 

"School bombing exposes Obama’s secret war inside Pakistan

(photo) Victims trapped in the rubble after a suicide bombing at the opening of a school for girls in the northwestern Pakistani town of Dir last we

"THE discovery of three American soldiers among the dead in a suicide bombing at the opening of a girls’ school in the northwestern Pakistan town of Dir last week reignited the fears of many Pakistanis that Washington was set on invading their country.

Barack Obama has banned the Bush-era term “war on terror” and dithered about sending extra troops to Afghanistan, but across the border in Pakistan, the US president has dramatically stepped up the covert war against Islamic extremists.

US airstrikes in Pakistan, launched from unmanned drones, are now averaging three a week, triple the number last year. “We're quietly seeing a geographical shift,” an intelligence officer said.

For the past month drones have pounded the tribal region of North Waziristan in apparent retaliation for the murder of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan by a Jordanian suicide bomber working with the Pakistani Taliban.

Last week America launched its first multiple drone attack, according to Pakistani security officials. Eighteen missiles were fired from eight unmanned aircraft in Dattakhel village, killing 16 people.

The discovery of the dead US soldiers revealed that America’s shadowy war in Pakistan not only involves drones but also small cadres of special operations soldiers.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, insisted that US troops were in Pakistan only to provide counter-insurgency training for the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force operating in the tribal areas.

Other sources said there were about 200 US military inside the country. “I’m not sure you could just call it training,” one official said. “They are hardly behind the wire if they are on trips to schools in Dir.”

The three US soldiers, who have been described variously as special operations forces and civil affairs troops, were killed when their convoy was bombed as it travelled to the re-opening of the school. It had been rebuilt with US aid after being bombed by the Taliban last year.

Three schoolgirls, two villagers and a Pakistani soldier were also killed in the attack, for which the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. More than 100 were wounded, mostly schoolgirls.

It was officially reported that the device was a remote-controlled bomb. It has now emerged that a suicide bomber rammed into the vehicle carrying the Americans. This suggests the bomber had inside information. “This attack was too perfect: they lay in wait for the convoy to pass and knew exactly which vehicle to hit,” a US military officer told the Long War Journal.

One of those killed was Sergeant Matthew Sluss-Tiller, 35, the father of a three-year-old daughter. His mother, Jane Blankenship, said her son had been in Pakistan on a civil affairs mission and had grown a beard for it.

One official suggested the “trainers” may be used to pick up intelligence on drone targets, particularly because the CIA did not trust its counterparts from the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service that has close links to the Taliban.

The Americans insist the drone attacks have been a success, picking off the second and third tier of Al-Qaeda’s leadership. In August they killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. They recently claimed to have killed his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, but Pakistan’s foreign minister said this had not been confirmed.

To the irritation of Washington, Islamabad has kept up a pretence that drone attacks are carried out without its approval, even though the aircraft are based in Pakistan.

Among the Pakistani public, there has been outcry at the attacks. Surveys constantly show that Pakistanis consider the US a greater threat than the Taliban, despite 3,021 Pakistani deaths in terrorist attacks last year.

If the drones are controversial, the presence of US soldiers on Pakistani soil is far more so. Despite a $1.5 billion (£959m) aid programme, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, had to fly into Pakistan two weeks ago to reassure its military leadership. “Let me say definitively the US does not covet a single inch of Pakistani soil,” he told Pakistan’s National Defence University."

Additional reporting: Daud Khattak"

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7017929.ece

Entry #1,630

Comments

1.
emilygComment by emilyg - February 7, 2010, 1:18 pm
Read that last night. The press cover it? C'mon.
2.
konaneComment by konane - February 7, 2010, 1:47 pm
Thanks Em! I can hope ........ Like wishing in one hand and [fill in the blanks].
3.
Rick GComment by Rick G - February 7, 2010, 3:01 pm
Can't remember the vote in congress that authorized this. Or is that even necessary anymore?
4.
konaneComment by konane - February 7, 2010, 4:55 pm
Thanks Rick! Think it's done by edict or proclamation nowadays.
5.
Comment by jim695 - February 7, 2010, 6:41 pm
I am constantly amazed by what we choose to ignore in favor of rooting for one political team or party over the other. I distinctly recall voicing my concerns here several months ago (see my comments under "U.S. Stirs a Hornet's Nest in Pakistan" on this blog). At that time, I referenced the fact that President Bush had signed an order to deploy 3,000 Marines from the 10th Mountain Division to the Khyber Region near Peshawar in November, 2006 (admittedly, I was not that explicit in my previous comments because I didn't want the FBI kicking my door in and asking questions about my sources). Funny how quickly we forget things like that.

Bush began cultivating a relationship with then-dictator Musharraf in March, 2006 during his tour of Asia, and called on Musharraf to hold democratic elections in Pakistan. Despite obvious tension between the two leaders, Bush gave Musharraf high praise for his claimed anti-terrorism stance. This "finessing" resulted in Bush's offer to send troops to Pakistan under the guise of training Musharraf's loosely-organized and rag-tag paramilitary forces.

I'm not an Obama fan, either, but let's give credit where it's properly due.

Moving on ...

Dir is a small sharecropping community nestled in the foothills of the Safed Koh Mountains along the Kabul River, a little less than twenty miles east of the Afghanistan border. The people who live there barely produce enough to feed themselves because the rough terrain is covered by a very thin layer of top soil, which often washes out during periods of heavy rainfall. Dir is considered militarily strategic due to its central location between the Khyber Pass (100 miles south) and the Baroghil Pass (about 125 miles north), and also because of its close proximity to the Afghani border.

We know both passes, when available, are traveled regularly by insurgents and Taliban alike to cross the border going both ways. However, in recent years the passes have been closely watched and heavily guarded by British and American troops, so Dir and Arandu (about 35 miles northeast of Dir) are particularly vulnerable to (and become bottlenecks for) hostile foot traffic. Our presence there is unavoidable and necessary, provided we can accept the notion that the "War on Terror" (it doesn't matter what Obama chooses to call it; a rose by any other name is still a war) can be won by simply preventing border crossings by local indigenous personnel or by those we suspect of engaging in or supporting terrorist activities.

To be honest, I'm surprised that only three Americans were killed in the attack but, based on what I know of the area, I'm as certain as I can be that they were an EOD tech, a combat engineer (the driver) and a political envoy who was on his way to the newly reopened school to cut the ribbon and to make the standard, "See What We've Done for You? Isn't American Democracy Great?" speech.

Unfortunately, I'm still convinced that this will turn ugly (even moreso than it has already) in the coming months. Pakistan's most imposing deterrent to unleashing a nuclear weapon is its proximity to India (third in rank as a world nuclear power) and Russia (which ranks second, behind the United States), but even those threats are wearing very thin these days. That's my most pressing concern about this stupid war, and I pray to God that my fears prove to be unfounded. Musharraf still exercises political influence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I'm just not sure whether President Zardari has the leadership skills or the loyal troops required to resist a major coup.

Time will tell, I guess ...

     Jim
6.
Comment by jim695 - February 7, 2010, 6:51 pm
Correction to my previous comments:

I stated above that Arandu is "about 35 miles northeast of Dir." Actually, Arandu is approximately 35 miles northwest of Dir. A minor point, but I like to be accurate.

Sorry for the oversight.

     Jim
7.
TigerAngelComment by TigerAngel - February 8, 2010, 12:22 am
Heard a report on this topic this a.m. on RBN online radio show of Jack McLamb. Most ppl don't realize we are at war in Pakistan and it's up to us to spread the word. That is if you can get a few moments of their attention away from A)football B)T.V. The new opiates of the people. Someone should tell our Gov to stop killing people around the world. You don't see other countries doing such atrocities. Perhaps we are "the great satan".
8.
jarasanComment by jarasan - February 8, 2010, 7:43 am
We are also at war on the southern border of the US. There is a daily domestic war on gangs. War has many faces,   there are so many going on right now large and small that true peace on earth is but the impossible dream
9.
konaneComment by konane - February 10, 2010, 10:05 am
Thanks Jim! Sorry for delayed reply to your post. For whatever reason my ISP doesn't let emails from LP through so have to manually check feed bookmarks for replies.

I have mixed feelings about our occupation of other nations. Used to buy the official version hook line and sinker but the drone of the official version is getting old. Not doubting we do good but feel our own domestic problems need solving first. Bringing industry back to provide jobs would be a stellar beginning.
10.
konaneComment by konane - February 10, 2010, 10:08 am
Thanks TigerAngel! Amazing the anti war rhetoric has morphed into a renamed Bush agenda on steroids. Where are the voices of the anti war protesters now?
11.
konaneComment by konane - February 10, 2010, 10:13 am
Thanks Jarasan! If they really wanted to solve our gang problems they could bring troops home and assign them to gang areas. Problem solved, domestic tranquility and safety of citizens restored.

Wasn't it Mao's method to allow thugs to beat down law abiding citizens?

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