Wednesday, January 18, 2006

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Will the Pakistani airstrike be worth it?

So there was an airstrike in Pakistan over the weekend that was intended to kill Al Qaeda #2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri -- but the strike missed the target. This caused thousands of Pakistanis to protest the airstrike the next day. The Pakistani press has also been up in arms.

With goodwill earned in-country from the earthquake relief, it seems as though a single airstrike could vitiate the shift in public opinion. The Council on Foreign Relations has a web page declaring, "MISSILE STRIKE PUTS U.S. ON DEFENSIVE."

Which leads us to this tidbit of information from ABC News:

ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan.

Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of four known major al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit in the village of Damadola early last Friday morning....

"He wants to cause mayhem, major death, and he puts his expertise on the line. So the fact that we took him out is significant," said former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, an ABC News consultant, who was the senior agent on the FBI's al Qaeda squad. "He's the man who trained the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, as well as hundreds of others."

Pakistani officials also said that Khalid Habib, the al Qaeda operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi, a senior operations commander for al Qaeda, were killed in the Damadola attack. Authorities tell ABC News that the terror summit was called to funnel new money into attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"Pakistani intelligence says this was a very important planning session involving the very top levels of al Qaeda as they get ready for a new spring offensive," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry and now an ABC News consultant.

There is no word on whether Mursi was also Al Qaeda's number three official.

Question for readers -- assuming this information is accurate and becomes common knowledge in Pakistan, will it blunt the downturn in public opinion?

[What do you care? The bad guys are dead!!--ed. Yeah, but I want the whole megillah.]

posted by Dan on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM


Any chance of naming a pakistani intelligence official who makes this quasi-claim?

Our guys do favors for them, they do favors for us, and there's room for some bribery too. We get news that looks bad and then they release some news that makes it look not so bad. Mmmm.

posted by: J Thomas on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

"What do you care? The bad guys are dead!!"

And so are about 15 innocent woman and children.

The most amazingly stupid part about this kind of attack is that regardless of whether it did kill "the bad guys" or not, no one will ever know because they were blown to bits. But if they knew where these "bad guys" were to such a degree that they could fire a bomb into their house, they obviously had the ability to go to that house and arrest them. mabye get some information from them in the process. and spare the lives of the children and women. and the anger of a vast part of the country.

This was pure terrorism by the USA. They were/are willing to kill dozens of innocent people to achieve their goals. Overall, that might end up to be the biggest victory Bin Laden gains, that he has turned the USA into a terrorist nation.

posted by: sam on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

What's more surprising, how incompetent, corrupt and amoral the Bush administration is, or how many of the fools he's screwing out of a secure future continue to support him?

Care to guess how many times we've killed the "#2 of Al Qaeda?" Here's an easier one: how many times have we killed the #1?

Just because someone's pouring you Kool-Aid doesn't mean you have to drink it.

posted by: clb72 on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

With regards to Sam's post, please read the articles. We could not go into the house to arrest them, because they were in Pakistan, and our soldiers are not allowed in Pakistan. This isn't to discount the ethical problems of shooting into houses with women and children, but a ground based operation (if that is the phrase) was not an option. Also, it seems that the adults present were probably not entirely innocent, because they were harboring terrorists.

posted by: Daniel on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

"We could not go into the house to arrest them, because they were in Pakistan, and our soldiers are not allowed in Pakistan."

Good point! Our soldiers are not allowed in Pakistan but our bombs are? Be serious. We own the neighboring country and it is crawling with CIA, we have total surveillance on the place to the degree that we can bomb the house that some "bad guy" is in (obviously, if we knew where he was, we could have found out where he was going and where he has been...), we have the ability to bomb that house from a base in Virginia, yet we can't muster up two or three CIA agents to go in and capture the guy alive without killing a whole bunch of women and children? We do it in Italy, but not in Pakistan? Now that is pathetic. Or, if you want to be sensitive, fine, why not contact our old friends in the ISI and have them do it?

Actually, two things have been made clear by this effort. 1) As I said before, the USA has degenerated into a terrorist state. It is clearly willing to use terrorism in an effort to scare the local population, because blowing this house up was not necessary to get the "bad guy". 2) The CIA must be totally incompetent if they have to resort to bombing the #2 on the enemy list and are unable to track him and follow him and arrest him (and learn what he knows) and do it quietly.

It is all pathetic. This kind of thing just makes everyone less safe. it is stupid.

posted by: sam on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

Sam:"if they knew where these "bad guys" were to such a degree that they could fire a bomb into their house, they obviously had the ability to go to that house and arrest them." That is funny. We could have gone to Afghanistan to arrest Bin Laden, to Iraq to arrest Saddam. Really, there is no need to use force. Serve them subpoenas, from the FISA court? Try them in California where the judges are more sympathetic, the weather is more agreeable. Oh, tell them to bring some witnesses too, also jurors of their peers since we may not have enough supply of those.

posted by: ic on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

When you invite Al-Zawahri to your house to celebrate Id thats an action thats going to have consequences. Only someone cocooned in anytown USA could possibly believe that if you can aim a missile at a house, you can go up to the house, knock on the door, and politely serve a warrant. Things dont work like that in this part of the world. Before any US forces were within an hour of that place, Zawahri would know they were coming and would be gone. And taking out the top bombmaker(if tue) of Al-Qaeda is a hugely useful thing. There are only a finite number of people who are going to develop the skills required, and be willing to use it to further the Al-Qaeda agenda. Taking one out is one less that needs to be worried about

posted by: AMD on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

The people critical of the missile stike:
> don't think this is a real war.
> don't understand war.
> would have approved of the strike if their candidate was president.
> have a distorted view of how politics works.
> are against everything and are just shooting off their mouth.

Have I missed any?

posted by: Huggy on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

There's no "war" except in Bush propaganda and the fevered imaginations of pathetic "macho" right-wing pussies who are terrified of their own shadows. Fighting terrorism is a matter of internatioal POLICING and depends heavily on international COOPERATION. Which is why dumb, stupid, idiotic unilateral actions like this airstrike are counterproductive. You really think al Qaeda can't replace one dead guy? How dumb are you "WOT" shills anyway?

posted by: Steve LaBonne on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

My impression is that many decades of Pakistani history influence an attitude in that country of treating its northwest provinces with benign neglect. The people there have a high level of autonomy while getting little help and few services from the national government, and most Pakistanis are content to leave things that way if they can.

Their attitudes would be different if the northwest territories harbored terrorists intent on carrying out large operations in other parts of Pakistan, but groups intent on carrying out violent operations in India and Afghanistan for reasons both political and tribal have been based on nominally Pakistani soil for many years. Terrorists determined to attack American and other Western targets are different to the government because its relations with us and other Western countries are different than its relations with its neighbors, both traditional rival India and Afghanistan, long seen as a potential Pakistani client state. Western countries offer things the Pakistani government knows Pakistan needs; all of them together, let alone the United States by itself, pose no existential threat to Pakistan the way India is seen to.

In this the thinking of Pakistan's government diverges some from that of its people, whose threshold of outrage at violations of Pakistan's sovereignty is lower. This seems to me to be the political context of the reaction to a strike at al Qaeda terrorists based in Pakistan and sheltered by the local population, who are used more or less willingly as a shield. American strikes against them represent to Pakistanis an affront to feelings of national pride and, probably at least as important, an undesirable stirring up of feelings in Pakistan's northwest that could have negative consequences down the road elsewhere in Pakistan. To Pakistan's government the attacks are an embarrassment, but are likely seen as an understandable action by the American government against its declared enemies --enemies Islamabad would at this point be content to see gone from the country anyway.

There is one other issue here, that being the likelihood that vital al Qaeda leaders are sheltering in Pakistan's northwest instead of in one of that country's teeming cities. It appears from reports as if at least a few of them were killed in the Predator airstrike. However, if I were a terrorist planning a major attack against Western civilian targets I would try to operate from a large city with ready access to the outside world if I could. Attacks like the one the other day would be impracticable in the middle of Karachi, another reason to hide out there instead of a remote rural area. This logic may overlook the likelihood that a terrorist like bin Laden or Zawahiri might be at greater risk of attack from Pakistani authorities in a major city. But in general it seems to me that the government, while wishing the terrorists would go away is probably not willing to fight them directly if it doesn't have to.

posted by: Zathras on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

The basic nature of the war at this point is that we have to execute the operations that will make this country safer mostly at the expense of an extremely hostile media that will do anything it can to rouse up antagonism to us, portray antagonism to us, as well as local leaders who will use anti-US sentiment as a sieve for distress with conditions as they are locally.

The attack was necessary and we can't tiptoe around this PR issue. Honestly, it can only harm us.

posted by: Admiral on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

I'm getting increasingly clear that a whole lot of americans won't understand how this looks to the rest of the world until their state ATF bureaus get Predator UAVs with Hellfire missiles and start using them.

posted by: J Thomas on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

Tribal areas where the americans attacked are semi-autonomous area which is never been under complete jurisdiction of Pakistan.Only a Pakistan Government agent oversees the rule of law by a Tribal committee known as Jirga. Afghanistan has always claimed this teritory of Pakistan therefore Pakistan has always been very sensitive about interference even by its own armed forces in this territory let alone foreign forces.In 1960s Pakistani army also tried to directly control these tribal areas and failed.No foreign attacker has ever succeded in subjugating these tribesmen as they are fiercely independent.British forces were defeated 3 times in this area at time of colonialization when they were strongest.Many foreign invading forces have also failed to subjugate these people if you can read the autobiography of Winston Churchill who also faught in this area you would know the terrian of this area is ideal for guerialla warfare.Pakistani forces have actually lost the war losing 700 troops.

Killing of civilians by Nato/Pakistan or Afghan forces in this area will actually mean losing the goodwill of the people in an area which will eventually inflame civil war within Pakistan and would eventually mean war between Pakistan and Afghanistan whenever these foreign forces leave Afghanistan. Without knowledge and historic background of a particular area and its people no force can assume it can easily win a war in that area.

The only solution is what the Government of Pakistan has signed as it knows it cannot win this war even if it fights this war for hundreds of years.

posted by: george on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

For the information of the readers Tribal areas is not the northwest frontier province but a semi-autonomous region ruled by committee of tribal sardars or rulers while Pakistani Government just has an Agent who confers with tribal heads in making final decisions for this area.Afghanistan has long been claiming Tribal areas and Frontier province of Pakistan as its own territory.

By bombing and killing civilians america is just creating a civil war like conditions for Pakistan and eventually leading to territorial war between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As most American decisionmakers have little knowledge of the historic background of this territory and terrrian which is ideal for gurella warfare where all foreign invaders like even British were defeated three times at the highest points of there empire in the last 100 years.

posted by: George on 01.18.06 at 08:35 PM [permalink]

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