Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The strategy to send U.S. ground forces into a Pakistan border village Wednesday — which left at least 15 people dead — was intended to take advantage of political uncertainty in the country, where assassins attempted to kill the prime minister Wednesday and parliament is due to elect a new president on Saturday.

Pakistani spokesman Nadeem Kiani told The Washington Times that government representatives met with U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson in Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss the “urgent matter” and that the U.S. did “not coordinate the operation with Pakistan.”

“They told the Ambassador that nobody would like that this sort of event should happen again and that action should be taken against the people who planned the operation,” Mr. Kiani said. “This is the first time that U.S. ground troops, who coordinated the attacks, crossed into sovereign territory and that women and children were killed. For that reason the Pakistan government protested the U.S. government. We have to wait and see why, what reason, [the U.S.] would send ground troops.”

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas echoed Mr. Kiani’s claims. He told the Associated Press it was the first incursion into Pakistani territory by foreign forces, who previously limited their attacks on the tribal areas to airstrikes.The Foreign Ministry called the raid “a grave provocation” and “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory.”

Mr. Kiani said the U.S. provocation would undermine current efforts by the Pakistani government to keep peace in the tribal region and keep the civilians from supporting militant groups.

“Pakistan is in a very delicate situation,” Mr. Kiani added. “We are currently in a food crisis, gas crisis and we are trying to keep the situation stable. This is going to have an adverse effect on the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban militants.”

In the past, U.S. attacks inside Pakistan’s border have consisted of unmanned aerial vehicles and other similar types of air strikes. The use of U.S. ground troops in Pakistan has never been authorized, Mr. Kiani said.

The Bush administration is keeping tight lipped about the incident and White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe gave no comment regarding Pakistan’s allegations.

Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, pentagon spokesman said there is “nothing to provide” regarding the incident. U.S. Central Command officials are not commenting on the incident either.

Bruce Riedel, a former senior official on the White House National Security Council and former CIA officer told The Times that the situation is “is going to complicate an already complicated and unhappy relationship between Washington and Islamabad.”

“Both sides feel the other side is misleading them and not doing all they can on their end but blaming the other for what happens,” said Mr. Riedel, who is author of an upcoming book, “The Search for al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and Future. “It should be remembered in all this at the end of day Pakistan has enormous amount of leverage to make life unpleasant for the U.S. and coalition.”

Mr. Riedel added that “80 percent or more” of U.S. and Coalition support and logistics for troops comes into Afghanistan via Pakistan and that without that support the international forces capabilities in Afghanistan will be hampered.

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