Thursday, June 12, 2008

Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Skirmish: Diplomatic Protests and Videotape

Everybody agrees that there was a skirmish near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border: specifically, near the Gorparai post in the Mohmand frontier region.

At that point, the agreement ends.

"...Pakistan has lodged a strong diplomatic protest, saying the bombing of the Gorparai post in the Mohmand frontier region on Tuesday was a 'completely unprovoked and cowardly act.'... " ("US releases video of clash along Afghan border" (Yahoo! News (June 12, 2008)).

American national security adviser Stephen Hadley said that "U.S. officials 'have not been able to corroborate' claims by Pakistani officials that a U.S. skirmish with militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border killed 11 Pakistani troops." (Yahoo! News)

I don't know how the diplomatic wrangle will come out, but there's something new in the mix this time: videotape.

"To support its version, the coalition on Thursday took the unusual step of releasing excerpts of a video shot by a surveillance drone circling above the mountainous battle zone." (Yahoo! News)

There's more:
  • "The grainy, monochrome images show about a half-dozen men firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from a ridge at coalition troops off-camera in the valley below.
  • "According to the voiceover in the video, the ridge is in Afghanistan's Kunar province, about 200 yards from the Pakistan border and close to the Gorparai checkpoint.
  • "Neither the checkpoint nor any other structures are visible in the video excerpts.
  • "The voiceover says the coalition forces were on a reconnaissance mission and returned fire as they tried to break contact and move to a point where a helicopter could pluck them to safety.
  • "The video shows the "anti-Afghan militants" moving to a position identified as inside Pakistan and the impact of a bomb which the voiceover says killed two of them.
  • "The survivors then fled into a ravine, where three more bombs were dropped, nearly three hours after the clash began. The voiceover said all the militants were killed.
  • "One of the bombs fell off screen, and U.S. officials said about a dozen bombs were dropped in all...."
    (Yahoo! News)
Later, the article quotes national security adviser Hadley: "...'One of the problems is that it is still not exactly clear what happened,' he said. 'The reports quite frankly, even from sources within the United States, are conflicting.'

"Hadley said that the U.S. believes there was an operation on the Afghan side of the border by 'anti-coalition forces' that threatened coalition personnel. The forces then went 'back into Pakistan' and the coalition fighters 'tracked and struck those forces.' "

What makes this incident stand out from run-of-the-mill diplomatic spats is the drone overhead, recording images. I remember back when dashcams were put on police cars, and video playback of baseball and other games started. Umpires were worried, as I recall, that the videotape would show them making wrong calls. That happened from time to time, but the umps were surprised at how often they got it right.

Before drones and videotape, incidents like the one at the Aghan-Pakistani border got sorted out based on witnesses and written records. That's still going to be important, but now it's possible for us to see at least part of what happened.

As camera-carrying drones and other remote sensing technology is used more, I think that some people will be as surprised as the umpires.

Of course, the Pakistani diplomats and the coalition leaders could both be right. I get the impression that, the way things work in that part of the world, the "anti-coalition forces" may have been the Pakistani troops.

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.