Tuesday, October 28, 2008




"The reported US assurances to respect Pakistani sovereignty in its territory did not apply to air strikes, which could continue as before. In fact, the Pakistan Army itself had agreed to these air strikes when Musharraf was the President and the COAS. Kayani was a party to that decision and he could not now object to such air strikes unless the Army wanted the permission for air strikes accorded by Musharraf to be withdrawn. However, Musharraf had consistently refused to agree to unilateral ground strikes by the US special forces. The present Government cannot give the impression that it had gone even further than Musharraf in its co-operation with the US forces in their operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban ."---- from my article of September 20,2008, titled "US STRIKES IN FATA: Change In Continuity" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers29/paper2851.html

The "New York Times" reported on its web site on October 26,2008, as follows: The United States is refraining from using its special forces on the Pakistani territory following a raid nearly two months ago that resulted in civilian casualties and vehement protests from Islamabad. Following the attack, National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani made an unannounced visit to Washington and expressed his country’s anger in person to top White House officials, including National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.But while the ground raids have stopped, attacks by remotely-piloted Predator aircraft, which are operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, have increased sharply in the past three months.There were at least 18 Predator strikes since the beginning of August, some deep inside the tribal areas, as compared with the five strikes during the first seven months of 2008.

2.Writing in the "News" of Pakistan (October 28,2008), Amir Mir, the well- informed Pakistani journalist, has cited a report of the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Pakistan as indicating that the US forces based in Afghanistan carried out 32 military strikes in Pakistani territory since the beginning of 2008 as against a combined total of 10 during 2006 and 2007.These included air strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft, attacks by missiles fired from US positions in Afghan territory and ground operations. The Interior Ministry report cited by him does not give the break-up figures. If the NY Times estimate of 23 Predator strikes since the beginning of this year is taken as correct, there were nine other operations , which did not involve the Predator aircraft. Earlier, the Pakistani authorities had reported only one helicopter-borne ground attack on a suspected Al Qaeda hide-out by the US in South Waziristan on September 3,2008. If one excludes this, there would appear to have been eight cross-border missile strikes.

3. The tabulation of the Interior Ministry, as disclosed by Amir Mir, gives the following other interesting details:

355 persons were killed in these 32 US operations directed at targets in the Pakistani territory. Of these 301 were innocent civilians, 36 were alleged members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and 18 were members of the Pakistani security forces.

Only eight of the 32 strikes were based on human intelligence, which proved to be correct. Among these eight strikes was one in which Abu Laith al-Libi, projected by the US as an important Al Qaeda operative, was killed. The remaining 24 strikes were based on human intelligence, which proved to be incorrect.

16 of the 32 US attacks were carried out between January 1 and August 31, 2008. The remaining 16 strikes were carried out between September 3 and October 26, 2008.

There were nine aerial strikes between September 3 and September 25, 2008 killing 57 people on September 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 15, 17, 22 and 27.

Between October 1 and October 26 , seven cross-border attacks were carried out, killing at least 42 people---- mostly women and children ---- on October 1, 3, 9, 11, 16, 23 and 26.

4. After every strike, Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, and spokesmen have been criticising the US for violating Pakistani territory and calling upon it to respect its sovereignty. Their statements and warnings have not had any effect on the US forces, which continue to indulge in Predator and cross-border missile strikes whenever they received intelligence about the suspected location of terrorist hide-outs. There seems to be an informal understanding between the two Governments on the following lines: " I will keep criticising and warning you.You keep doing whatever you have to against the suspected terrorist hide-outs, provided you do not undertake strikes involving ground troops." The intensification of Predator strikes has coincided with the forthcoming US Presidential elections.

5. Despite public criticism of the close counter-terrorism co-operation with the US initiated by Pervez Musharraf, the newly- elected Government, which took office on March 18,2008, has been continuing the policies initiated under Musharraf. Apart from turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the US air and missile strikes in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) while pretending to condemn them, the Government has also been going ahead with the implementation of proposals for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency training of officers of the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Army and the Frontier Corps by mixed teams of US and British officers. These training projects were initiated under Musharraf.

6. The text of a report carried by the "Daily Times" of Pakistan on October 19,2008, on US-aided counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency projects is attached.(29-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

ANNEXURE (From the "Daily Times" of Lahore dated October 19,2008)

FATA is the epicentre of the global war on terrorism, according to a US security assistance officer helping Pakistan improve both equipment and training in order to fight more effectively against extremist militants.

The observation is quoted in an assessment by the Centre for Naval Analysis (CAN) of US-funded projects in Pakistan under the rubric 1206. The focus of 1206 projects in Pakistan has been on three distinct, but inter-related sets of capabilities. The goal is to rapidly increase Pakistan’s capacity to confront terrorists operating in FATA. Specifically, the programme seeks to provide the Pakistani special operation forces the capability to conduct airborne night strike operations against terrorists in the FATA. FY06 1206 projects in Pakistan have focused on increasing the capacity and capability of the Pakistani Army’s rotary wing aviation units as well as improving the equipment and training available to the Pakistani Army’s Special Services Group (SSG). Pakistan is also to be enabled to deal with terrorist attacks in settled areas and urban centres.

Superior knowledge: The Pakistani forces, CAN said, engaged in combat with enemies in the FATA often find that their adversary has superior knowledge of the territory and is able to use this knowledge to provide tactical advantages. With that advantage, the adversary reportedly takes advantage of the night to conduct surveillance, reinforcement, withdrawal and even attacks against Pakistani forces. Between 2003 and 2008, the SSG conducted 122 separate counter terrorist operations in the FATA and the NWFP. While SSG operations resulted in 178 terrorist dead and 211 captured, the SSG suffered 42 killed and 90 wounded. Additionally, the SSG suffered 16 killed and 29 injured in a terrorist attack at the Tarbela SSG base.

After 1206 funding authorisation was passed, Pakistan requested support for spare parts, aviation body armour, night vision goggles (NVGs), a night targeting system for Cobra helicopters, and limited visibility training for pilots. While much of the 1206-funded equipment for Pakistan in financial year (FY) 2007 has arrived in Qatar, home of US Central Command’s Special Operations Component Command, it has not been distributed to the SSG. Instead, distribution of the equipment to Pakistani units is being paired with specialised training by US special operation forces under the Joint Combined Exchange Training. The goal for the FY07 1206 programme is to rapidly develop the capability of the SSG to conduct vertical insertion nighttime company-sized attack helicopter supported raids against terrorist targets in the FATA.

According to Pakistani officers the training and operational profile of the forces involved has changed as a result of the arrival of new equipment. According to a senior US officer, the number of combat operations by Pakistani military forces against terrorists has increased dramatically since the Red Mosque siege in July 2007. This increased operational tempo has compounded the strain on the Pakistani Army’s capabilities, especially aviation.

According to the commander of the SSG special operations task force, there is both an operational and psychological impact of having Cobra helicopters available to support special operations forces engaged with terrorists in NWFP and FATA. The Cobras also provide direct strike capabilities against enemy targets. According to the Pakistani director of Military Operations, the Cobra is the mainstay of their missions in the FATA. It protects logistics, it provides reconnaissance, and it allows raids on emergent targets. The FATA is very difficult terrain to operate in and the only fire support available to ground units comes from mid-range towed artillery and helicopters. Surveillance and reconnaissance are difficult, but helicopters provide the combined capabilities of surveillance, quick reaction and fire support. According to a former Pakistani company commander, when the enemy hears Cobras coming, they disappear. Actual casualties inflicted on the enemy by the helicopters are less important than the deterrent effect of having them nearby to support ground forces.