Monday, June 16, 2008

Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Taliban, Diplomacy, and Common Sense

I don't know quite what to make of what's going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan right now. The president of Afghanistan is understandably peeved that Afghans keep getting killed by organizations operating from bases in Pakistan. And, that Pakistan isn't doing anything about it. Nothing effective, at least.

" Afghan president threatens to send forces into Pakistan to hunt militants"
International Herald-Tribune (June 16, 2008)

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send Afghan troops to fight notorious Taliban leaders inside Pakistan — an angry warning to his eastern neighbor that he will no longer tolerate cross-border attacks.

"The threat - the first time Karzai has said he would send forces into Pakistan - comes only days after a sophisticated Taliban assault on Kandahar's prison freed 870 prisoners, including hundreds of militants from the Islamist movement. It also comes six weeks after Karzai survived his fourth assassination attempt - an attack claimed by the Taliban.

"Karzai has long pleaded with Pakistan and the international community to confront tribal area safe havens, and U.S. officials have increased their warnings in recent weeks that the sanctuaries in Pakistan must be dealt with.

"Last week, U.S. aircraft dropped bombs along the Afghan-Pakistan border, an incident the Pakistan army said killed 11 of its paramilitary forces. The exchange ratcheted up increasingly touchy relations among the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan...."

I posted about U.S. aircraft dropping bombs last week. The coalition version is that the bombs killed 'anti-coalition forces,' and have videotape to show of the incident. The Pakistani government apparently still claims that 11 of its military were killed.

As I said last week, the impression I get is that both sides could be right: the Pakistani troops who were killed could have been the anti-coalition forces.

Afghanistan's leader says that his country has the right to defend itself.

Pakistan's leader says that his country can't help it that Pakistanis raid Afghanistan, and that Pakistan's neighbors should be happy about this situation. I know: that sounds crazy. But read this:

"... In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country is a sovereign state that wants good relations with its neighbors. But he said the Afghan-Pakistan border is too long to prevent people from crossing, 'even if Pakistan puts its entire army along the border.'

" 'Neither do we interfere in anyone else's matters, nor will we allow anyone to interfere in our territorial limits and our affairs,' Gilani told The Associated Press."

It may be unfair to put it this way, but it seems to me that the Pakistani Prime Minister is saying that
  • Pakistan can't keep its citizens from going into Afghanistan to kill Afghans and stage large-scale prison breaks
  • Pakistan wants Afghanistan and other neighboring countries to like that situation
  • Providing a safe base of operations for organizations that raid other countries is not 'interfering' with the country being attacked
On the other hand, how else would a reasonable person boil down what the Pakistani Prime Minister said?

Finally, Afghanistan's president specifically warned individual Pakistani leaders, including Baitullah Mehsud, that Afghanistan will target them specifically.

If the name Baitullah Mehsud sounds familiar, it should. He's the fellow who said that he'd send suicide bombers to kill former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Then, when a suicide attack killed her, he said he didn't do it.

2 comments:

AI said...

It's hardly a big story at present but one gets the impression that something nasty is brewing, if anything for lack of of common sense. I'm somewhat perplexed at the comments made by the Pakistani Prime Minister. Perhaps it's simply a case of not caring enough to be concerned about the matter. Either that, or there is a great lack of respect for border neighbours.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

AI,

Agreed. There's at least one other possible explanation for the Pakistani Prime Minister's apparently illogical, inconsistent comments. We could be looking at some very weird aspect of respect, as seen by Middle Eastern culture.

My guess is that there's some combination of arrogance, ignorance, and cluelessness involved.

Even though this incident is minor now, I wrote another post today: "Afghanistan's Arghandab District and the Taliban: More Than a Spot of Trouble" (June 16, 2008).

In my opinion, the current situation in Afghanistan could get very bad, rather quickly.

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