Make no mistake about it, America is fighting another war and it is on Pakistani soil.
The beauty of the plan though is that the war remains undeclared. The US government does not elude to it, talk about it, or publicly boast about. They just go about their business and do it. The media talks about it openly though, or at least it openly talks about the aspects it knows about, i.e. the drone attacks. All other missions, plans, and strategies remain invisible and unheard of.
The drone war that America is waging on Pakistan is done with the Pakistani government’s help and approval. It is a government which like many others in the past, has done everything in its power to keep foreign troops off Pakistani soil. However, this time around, which such clear evidence that Pakistan is now home to the brains behind the Taliban and numerous other militant groups, it was simply impossible for the Pakistani government to successfully stave off an invasion, even if it was just a ‘smart’ aerial one. For the Pakistani government it was a face-saving measure since its cooperation with the US is not discussed openly and in return it has the guarantee that US army servicemen won’t cross the Afghan border into Pakistan. On the US side, with a fledgling economy, a stretched military budget, war fatigue amongst troops, and a nation-wide unwillingness to join another war, this pseudo-smart aerial war waged by mechanized drones is an ideal scenario. It helps the Americans take quick and decisive actions within Pakistan without endangering a single American life. US soldiers control drones from American soil and kill Pakistanis and militants on another continent without breaking a sweat.
This pseudo-war is a battle of convenience, enabled by technology and a pliable, non-questioning media.
Now though, reports are emerging, and not being denied by the US government mind you, that the CIA has amassed a 3000 man strong covert operations team in Afghanistan which is conducting stealth operations inside Pakistan.
In a recent Washington Post piece, which talks about Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars”, the newspaper reports on one of his findings:
“The CIA created, controls and pays for a clandestine 3,000-man paramilitary army of local Afghans, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. Woodward describes these teams as elite, well-trained units that conduct highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan as part of a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there.”
In response to the reports, The Huffington Post quotes the Pakistani Army’s spokesperson, Major General Athar Abbas, as saying that:
“We do not allow any foreign troops or militia to operate on our side of the border… There are no reports of any such incident, and, should it happen in future, they will be fired upon by our troops.”
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas’ placation cum threat aide, the emergence of this report and the affirmation by multiple (albeit confidential) sources as per media outlets ranging from Al Jazeera to National Public Radio (NPR) is a grave sign indeed. Grave in the sense that it means there is a war going on without a doubt now- whether the operatives are wearing civilian clothes or American military uniforms is of little consequence in practical terms as long as they are taking orders from the American intelligence agencies. The second grave concern is the risk this poses to the fragile (and yes, corrupt and farcical) democracy of Pakistan, which is sure to come under enormous strain due to this news. And lastly, the gravest concern is for the sake of emerging conflicts everywhere as the world moves into the future.
This conflict is a significant shift in the way war is conducted. It has never been seen before on such a large scale, carried out incessantly over many months. It does not fit the bill of what we know as ‘covert’, but that label has been attached to it because the truth is that we don’t have any other label for it. This has simply never happened before.
For you see, America’s drone war is not sanctioned by Congress. And of course, neither is this latest covert paramilitary offensive. No public bill and/or policy document has been discussed in Congress about these two acts of war upon another sovereign nation. The view, presumably, is that since there are no American soldiers at risk, why bother. Hence the war is unconstitutional not just in Pakistan, but also in America, and of course as per the United Nations. The combined offensive breaks every iota of international law. It is illegal, underhanded, unconstitutional, and remains undeclared to this day.
If one of the leading powers in the world can just decide one day to start bombing another nation and sending in covert forces to carry out missions in that country (no matter how well-intentioned) without its actions falling under the jurisdiction of any law within its own constitution or international law simply because its war is not officially declared or owned up to, then where does that lead us to in the future?
Shall China start attacking Taiwan and remain unchallenged by the world on its actions because it chose to not share its war plans with anyone? Can Venezuela carry out attacks within Colombian borders for months on end without it being rebuked under any official measure at the UN because it is using covert paramilitary troops who don’t wear a Venezuelan flag patch on their uniforms?
This war is happening. And some believe it should happen. Its need is not what I am arguing. Its method is my point of concern at this time. The laws, people, and tactics that are enabling such a grave action to take place outside the bounds of anything we consider lawful needs to be addressed before we start talking about the need of any such action. Failure to address the issue, as has been the case up to now, is tantamount to supporting such an unlawful conflict. It is a tacit approval now and in the future that we are fine with such perverse shows of force and underhanded conflicts, that we will look the other way while governments make such decisions without asking permission from their own democratic apparatus and/or the international community.