Thursday, September 4, 2008




"The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in the FATA and the NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in the FATA. Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into the FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding"
---Extract from my article of August 22,2008, titled "Pakistan's Falluja" at

Fifteen suspected Pashtun (Wazirs) tribal supporters of Al Qaeda, including some women and one child, are reported to have been killed on the night intervening September 2 and 3,2008, when US Special Forces launched a hit and withdraw attack on three houses in the village of Jalal Khel, also known locally as Moosa Nika, in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan. The houses were located about one KM inside Pakistani territory from the border with Afghanistan. The village is about one kilometre from Angoor Adda and seven kilometres from the US military base at Machadat in Afghanistan's Paktika province. There are so far no indications of any high-profile operative of Al Qaeda or the Taliban having been killed. The raiding forces landed near the houses in a helicopter, which was escorted by two others, and took off immediately after killing the inmates of the three houses. There are no reports of any resistance either from the inmates or from a post of the Pakistani Frontier Corps (FC) located nearby.

2. The fact that the raid was made so close to an FC post and that the FC personnel did not react would indicate a possible understanding between Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), when they met on board an American aircraft-carrier on August 26,2008, about the circumstances under which US Special Forces could launch hit and withdraw raids on suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory close to the Afghan border without prior intimation to the Pakistani posts.

3. This conclusion becomes evident from the fact that when US Special Forces earlier made a similar raid on December 29,2002, in the Angoor Adda area after an attack on a US patrol in Afghan territory by a group of terrorists who withdrew into the Pakistani territory after the attack, there was an exchange of fire between US soldiers and personnel of a Pakistani para-military unit stationed in the area. There were conflicting versions of that incident. US spokesmen claimed that when US and Pakistani personnel doing a joint operation in the area had a disagreement, one of the Pakistani soldiers opened fire on the US personnel and was killed along with another Pakistani soldier. A statement issued by the Pentagon on that incident stated that a clash of a minor nature took place on December 29, 2002, near the Afghan village of Sikhin in which two Pakistanis were killed and an American was injured. During the clash, an American F-16 dropped a bomb hitting a madrasa (Muslim religious school) in the South Waziristan area in Pakistani territory. An analysis of the various versions of that incident may be seen in my article titled THE OMENS FROM SOUTH WAZIRISTAN at

4.Unmanned Predator aircraft of the US have been periodically carrying out unadmitted missile strikes on suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in the two Waziristans. Some of these strikes were successful and resulted in the deaths of high-profile Al Qaeda operatives . There were others, which were unsuccessful due to wrong intelligence and resulted in large civilian casualties.

5. From the available information on the latest attack early in the morning of September 3,2008, it is not clear whether the operation could be described as successful or unsuccessful. The Taliban itself has projected the ground strike as unsuccessful in which innocent civilians were killed.

6. There are three significant aspects of the operation. Firstly, the US has officially admitted launching a hit and withdraw attack inside Pakistani territory without worrying about the implications of its admission on public opinion in Pakistan.US spokesmen have projected this operation as the beginning of possibly more to follow. The "New York Times" has quoted an unnamed US official as stating as follows: "“What you’re seeing is perhaps a stepping up of activity against militants in sanctuaries in the tribal areas that pose a direct threat to United States forces and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.There’s potential to see more.”

7. Secondly, the Pakistani officials too have promptly confirmed that such an attack inside Pakistani territory took place. They have reacted with seeming anger, but it is difficult to say to what extent the anger is genuine.Pakistan lodged a “strong protest” with the American Government and reserved the right of “self-defense and retaliation,” said the Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. He added: "“Such actions are completely counterproductive and can result in huge losses, because it gives the civilians a cause to rise against the Pakistani military.” A spokesman of the Pakistani Foreign Office said: "This helicopter borne ground attack, supported by air assets based in Afghanistan, is gross violation of Pakistan's territory. It is, indeed, most unfortunate that coalition/ISAF in Afghanistan have resorted to cross-border use of force against civilians. Such actions are counter-productive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism. 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. Moreover, any attack on Pakistani territory is unacceptable and constitutes a grave provocation." The Foreign Office also lodged a formal protest with Anne Patterson, the US Ambassador. All the Pakistani statements so far have been pro forma without signs of genuine indignation. The only genuine anger has been from the residents of the area who have been demonstrating against the attack.

8. Thirdly, by launching this operation after the fasting Ramzan period has begun, the US has made it clear that it is not bound by the Pakistani decision to suspend all military operations in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) during the fasting period.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )