The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has acknowledged that it launched air strikes into Pakistan late last week, despite nine years of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan launching only unmanned drones and covert strikes across the Pakistan border. Though militants often cross between the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the U.S. and ISAF are not officially at war in Pakistan, which reacted angrily and says it never approved the strikes. The U.S. has previously suggested it has an agreement with Pakistan to allow "hot pursuit" of militants across the border, but Pakistan denies this. What does this cross-border incident mean?
Why They Crossed into Pakistan The New York Times' Rod Nordland reports that the NATO forces crossed the border to chase militants who had fired on them in Afghanistan. "Coalition officials said the cross-border attacks fell within its rules of engagement because the insurgents had attacked them from across the border. The Associated Press reported that a third strike inside Pakistani territory was carried out by two NATO helicopters on Monday. Pakistani intelligence officials told The A.P. that the attack killed five militants and wounded nine others."
- It Was Probably U.S. Troops The Financial Times' Matthew Green and Farhan Bokhari suggest, "Isaf did not identify the nationality of the aircraft, but the Apache and Kiowa helicopters reported to have been involved in the incidents were almost certainly from the US, which uses these types in Afghanistan."
- Time to Acknowledge We're at War in Pakistan Wired's Noah Shachtman writes, "U.S. officials don't like calling what's going on in Pakistan a war. But the American-led conflict, whatever name you give it, has never been this violent. The drone component of the campaign hit a new high over the weekend -- 20 attacks in September alone, killing as many as 101 people. ... In the Beltway, it's considered bad form to refer to the Pakistan 'war.' The term is too loaded with geopolitical baggage, and raises too many questions about who should be overseeing the conflict at home. But ... what else should we name this multi-pronged military campaign? What other term would possibly apply?"
- Provoking Outrage, Fear in Pakistan The Guardian's Saeed Shah writes, "Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the incursions as a 'clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which Isaf operates', saying it had made a formal protest to Nato. 'In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options,' said Abdul Basit, the foreign ministry spokesman. ... The use of manned aircraft is highly controversial in a country in which anti-Americanism runs high and widely believed conspiracy theories maintain that nuclear-armed Pakistan is the next American military target."
- Bad Precedent Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks shakes his head. "The papers and their websites don't make much of it, but this strikes me as pretty significant -- an overt U.S. raid across the border into Pakistan. ... Maybe this is a response to the FATA-lism of Pakistani officials." Ricks is referring to the tendency of some borderland Pakistani officials, specifically members of the military intelligence service, to aid or support militants who fight the U.S.
US gunships attack inside Pakistan. As I've been saying, hello mission creep as the Afghan War expands. Good morning Cambodia!