US strikes in Pakistan part of secret deal
November 16, 2008 Leave a comment
Ever since the United States began to engage in systematic military incursions and airstrikes against perceived terrorist targets in Pakistan, the Pakistani government has been vocally criticizing the Bush Administration for its “counterproductive” methods, which do not help “meet the objectives of the war on terror”, in the words of Mohammed Sadiq, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Now a new report by The Washington Post has disclosed that the US airstrikes and military incursions are in fact covered under a secret US-Pakistani high-level agreement, according to which “the US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the attacks while Pakistan’s government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes”. Under the deal, the US government is said to have temporarily halted ground incursions, but regular airstrikes against targets in Pakistani territory have intensified.
Although this report will be denied by the Pakistani leadership, it rings accurate and is substantiated by the long and telling history of US-Pakistani security relations. It essentially signifies the continuation of the fundamentals of these relations, which appears to have remained untouched despite the recent change of guard in Islamabad.
The obvious ironic element in this development is highlighted by the recent comments of Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardary, who candidly —and accurately— stated that the US strikes on Pakistani soil are “not good for our position of winning the hearts and minds of people”. Time magazine reports that “[o]pinion polls routinely show that an overwhelming majority of ordinary Pakistanis oppose US actions inside their country”. Yet “[t]he government has to respond to public sentiment, leading to harsh, uncompromising language from political and military leaders”.
This new development must not terminate the debate about the legality of the US military actions inside Pakistan. Even if the Pakistani government has authorized these actions, they still constitute extrajudicial assassinations. The latter are not justified by their reported sanctioning by the country’s elected regime. Nevertheless, this latest repot strengthens the increasing consensus of observers that, despite the recent change of guard in Islamabad, it is still business as usual in Pakistan’s relations with Washington. [JF]