What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Raids and counter-raids

The Washington Post started off a report on Afghanistan like this, on September 3, 2008:
"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."
"... two military helicopters landed on March 7 in Shawal area of Pakistan's North Waziristan and armed personnel captured Hakimullah Mehsud.
Five foreign comrades of Hakimullah Mehsud escaped, and Hakimullah later was flown into Afghanistan for interrogation, said the report."
Dawn reported this originally, citing "informed sources." They were more specific about the location: "in the Lawara area of Shawal."
On the Pakistani side, many were angry about the incident according to the Times, in which they saw a breach of Pakistan's sovereignty (not very surprisingly). Later on other narratives emerged, too - Imtiaz Ali wrote both in a Jamestown piece and in Asia Times Online that Hakimullah Mehsud was captured while trying to cross into Afghanistan (which is equal, of course, to saying that you don't know where he was captured).
If the earlier reports were true about the March, 2007 incident, not the later ones, then the Musa Nika raid in South Waziristan was not really a first. This actually doesn't make that much of a difference (though some may perceive this differently) - I say so because there were numerous drone strikes in Pakistani territory in the meantime. Artillery fire across the border is not that much a rarity, either.
Anyway, the three recurring elements to the above cited stories are helicopters, special forces and raids. These elements could have come together again in Pakistan today, had the Pakistani side not thought it differently, firing warning shots into the air (which is kind of tricky with helicopters hovering around).
What's different today? A lot more pressure on Pakistan, and supposedly an "open and secret" authorisation of cross-border raids by POTUS Bush. You could think I'm implying a conclusion here - apply less pressure, and you'll achieve more, by not making friendly friends choose between a hard place and a rock. But the lesson of 2007-2008 may be that for now you just don't get better results anyway.

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