‘Intense, focused and targeted’

Rahimullah Yusufzai on developments in Swat and the delusions of the armchair militarists.

Unlike the earlier two phases of the military operations in Swat in 2007 and 2008, the latest one initiated in late January is being praised by the ANP-PPP government in the NWFP and sections of the population opposed to the militants. The more discerning elements of the civil society, who tend to criticise almost anything that doesn’t conform to their political and intellectual orientation, are also backing the intensified military action. The main reason for the support to the armed forces this time is due to the belief that the latest military operation is intense, focused and targeted.

This reminds one of a statement made by Gen Pervez Musharraf on the eve of the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. In a bid to win public support for his unpopular decision to ally Pakistan with the US at the time, he had argued that the American military action in the neighbouring, Taliban-ruled country would be quick, focused and targeted. Obviously, the General was trying to reassure Pakistanis that this was going to be over soon as he calculated the Taliban regime would collapse and the US troops would go home after installing a pro-West government in Kabul. Though President George W Bush contradicted his Pakistani counterpart, Gen Musharraf didn’t correct his flawed assessment. Supremely confident of his military knowledge and intellectual prowess, he even claimed at the time that the Taliban could not fight a guerrilla war and, therefore, would soon become irrelevant.

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And the drone policy continues…

There is no single journalist who is more knowledgeable and incisive when it comes to the consequences of the so-called ‘war on terror’ on Pakistan than Rahimullah Yusufzai. Since so much nonsense has been proliferating about Pakistan courtesy of both ill-informed Western journalists, and the native informers (*), PULSE will strive to provide fuller coverage of developments in the region.  Here is Rahimullah Yusufzai on the continuing US bombing of the Pakistani tribal belt.

The issue of missile strikes by US drones in Pakistan’s territory has dominated politics and the media in recent days and weeks. The new Obama administration has made it clear the attacks will continue despite statements of disapproval on an almost daily basis by Pakistani leaders, who argue that this policy was undermining Islamabad’s efforts to counter the militancy.

Robert Gates, who has been retained as defence secretary by President Barack Obama to ensure continuity to Washington’s policy in its ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, became the first American official last week to publicly comment on the issue of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Normally, US officials avoid commenting on the topic in public and instead unnamed sources in the Pentagon or the intelligence agencies leak information to the American media about such attacks, along with the claim that someone important in Al Qaeda had been killed. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr Gates said the US would continue to carry out missile attacks against Al Qaeda militants in Pakistan. The US, he warned, will “go after Al Qaeda wherever Al Qaeda is.” He also said the decision had been conveyed to the government of Pakistan.

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Writers pressure Obama over Afghanistan

A ‘new beginning will not be possible as long as we continue to spill the blood of the men, women, and children of Afghanistan,’ warns this message from notable American writers which appears in The Nation and the New York Review of Books.notthistime5.

Obama’s Vietnam?

‘Friday’s airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ writes Juan Cole. ‘But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war’. Like most western commentators Cole reproduces uncritically claims about the deaths of ‘foreign fighters’ (unconfirmed, for the record). Pakistani officials are usually just as eager to conjure up foreign fighters in order to mitigate the backlash that the extrajudicial murder of innocent tribals would elicit.

On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama’s initiatives in his first few days in office — preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo — were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with “President Bush” substituted for “President Obama.” Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor’s halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What does Obama’s first military operation tell us about his administration’s priorities?

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