US plans to expand raids in Pakistan
US military officials have made a proposal for expanding Special Operations ground raids into the tribal areas of Pakistan. The decision was made in the light of a recent Intelligence report, describing the insurgent camps in the Pakistan as one of the main threats to the success of US operations in Afghanistan. While the plan has not yet been approved, both military and political leaders admit the necessity of serious measures as the deadline for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan approaches.
Since Barack Obama declared the solution of Afghanistan problem one of the main directions of his foreign policy, the failure to meet the deadline could become critical for his political reputation. The report recently provided by American intelligence agencies states that despite the fact of some progress made by US forces during the last year, the military operation is still far from being a success. The main reason is either the unwillingness or the inability of the Pakistan authorities to solve the problem of insurgent military havens in the country’s tribal region. The militants freely cross the Afghanistan border to fight US troops and plant bombs and then return to Pakistan territory for rest and resupplying.
Up till now, the movement of US forces inside Pakistan territory has been prohibited to prevent a negative reaction from the Pakistani authorities. Several infiltrations made by the US Forces are known to have infuriated Pakistani officials. The main role in a secret war on Pakistan territory has belonged to the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has operated the armed drones to hunt down insurgent leaders and also organized a number of secret missions carried by Afghan operatives, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. While their missions have been reported as intelligence-gathering only operations, recent interviews have demonstrated that at least in one case the Afghan militia destroyed a militant weapons depot.
The plan of expanding US military operations in Pakistan is still in the discussion and needs the approval from President Obama. But even now it is clear that this decision would open a new front in the war that is becoming more and more unpopular in America. It also could ruin the relations with such unreliable ally as Pakistan, especially considering the risk of civilian casualties. Political fallout in Pakistan remains the main argument of the Washington critics of the proposal. According to their position any tactical gains of the operations could be easily negated by the damaged relations with Pakistan authorities. Opponents of the plan also believe that cross-border operations are generally “counterproductive”, unless they are targeting the top leaders of Al Qaeda.
At the same time many have to admit that any attempts to gain Pakistan cooperation remain fruitless. The huge financial support, carried by the USA to Pakistan, has faced severe criticism from both American officials and Afghanistan authorities. While America continues to give away about $2 billion in military and civilian aid each year, the cooperation remains intact. Pakistan still evades the solution of the North Waziristan problem, where Al Qaeda’s top leaders are thought to hide.
In this situation US military leaders aim to receive the approval for their plan to send American Special Forces across the Pakistani Border. An anonymous senior American officer stated, “We’ve never been as close as we are now to getting the go-ahead to go across.”
According to interviews by American military officials, the main targets of the cross-border raids would be the leaders of Taliban and Haqqani Network. The officers stated that they are more eager to capture insurgent leaders than to kill them, because captured leaders present more benefits for intelligence and planning of the future operations.
Meanwhile, even the supporters of Obama are starting to lose patience with the war. Adam Smith – a Washington Democrat who serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, stated that the political left plans to increase pressure on the President to end the war and that the Democrats in Congress are likely to oppose continuing to spend $100 billion annually on Afghanistan.
“We’re not going to be hanging out over there fighting these guys like we’re fighting them now for 20 years,” said Adam Smith.