Yesterday, Admiral Mullen announce his new “comprehensive strategy” for the war in Afghanistan, the centerpiece of which is ratcheting up attacks in neighboring Pakistan. The American intelligence community has warned the administration against such attacks, saying they were destabilizing a nation perceived as a key ally in the broader war.
This strategy, typified by last week’s attack on a South Waziristan village by US helicopters and ground troops, was rebuffed by Pakistan’s military. Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani declared yesterday that foreign troops would no longer be allowed to conduct missions on Pakistani soil, citing the rules of engagement which do not permit coalition forces to operate inside of Pakistan. Now, the American plan faces another obstacle in NATO.
During a news briefing, NATO spokesman James Appathurai agreed with Pakistan that NATO’s mandate ends at the Afghan border, and insisted that NATO forces would not take part in “ground or air incursions” into Pakistan. Despite NATO’s seeming disinterest in participating in such operations, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised to press newly elected Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to allow NATO forces to enter the country.
The long mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has long been a contentious issue for the United States, with many calling for American troops to hunt down militants in the largely lawless border region. But US strikes such as the one in June which killed 11 Pakistani soldiers have sown resentment among Pakistan’s populace, and created tensions with Pakistan’s fledgling government, who have launched several high profile military raids into border regions which have killed hundreds of militants and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.