US relations with Pakistan have deteriorated as the US continues to extend its war in neighbouring Afghanistan across the border. The US blames the use of sanctuaries in Pakistan by insurgents for the failure of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan to achieve its aims.
Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan after the September 30 shooting of three Pakistani soldiers by US soldiers in a helicopter. The US soldiers had crossed the border looking for insurgents.
The border closure has crippled the main supply route to the US/NATO occupying armies in Afghanistan. It has made NATO fuel tankers sitting ducks for Pakistani Islamist saboteurs, who have torched more than 100 trucks.
However, it is not sanctuaries for insurgents in Pakistan that is behind the failure of the occupation. The Afghan war, like that in Iraq, was part of the failed attempt by the United States to redraw the map of the Middle East to US advantage.
Even more than Iraq, Afghanistan has proved easier to invade than to control.
However, rather than ending the nine-year-old failed adventure that has cost the lives of more than 2000 foreign soldiers and a much larger — but uncounted — number of Afghan civilians, US President Barack Obama sent more soldiers.
Obama’s surge can only go badly. An official goal is to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghan civilians, but the heavy reliance of occupying forces on air strikes that repeatedly kill civilians undermines this goal.
Rather than accept it cannot win the Afghan war, the US government points to the Afghan Taliban’s sanctuaries in Pakistan, the links between the Afghan Taliban and similar Pakistani groups and the links between both and sections of the Pakistani state, in particular military intelligence (ISI).
Just as in the 1960s and ’70s, when the US responded to the defeat of its occupying force inside Vietnam by extending the war into Cambodia and Laos, it is spreading the Afghan war to Pakistan.
Since coming to office in January 2009, Obama has dramatically increased military attacks against Pakistan. Such attacks are mostly carried out by drones, operated by remote control by “pilots” in the US.
Despite official condemnation, the Pakistani government unofficially tolerates the drone strikes. Drones even take off from a base inside Pakistan.
US and Pakistani military authorities stopped this base from being used for relief operations during this year’s floods.
The October 2 Globe and Mail said drone strikes had quadrupled during Obama’s term in office. The September 14 Globe and Mail reported that September had already become the busiest month for drones, with 50 people killed in 12 strikes.
Pakistani government statistics leaked to the News in April 2009 suggest that 60 civilians were killed for every insurgent or terrorist targeted.
The October 2 Globe and Mail reported other effects of drone warfare on the civilian population include mental health problems. Anti-depressants have risen 600% in price due to increased demand. “This 24-hour buzzing in the sky gives people a fear that’s worse than dying”, local psychiatrist Muhammad Shafique told the Globe and Mail.
The spreading of the war is ratcheting up tensions on the Pakistani government, as can be seen by its decision to close supply lines. It is further evidence the spreading and deepening of the Afghan adventure will not succeed in winning the conflict for the US and its allies, but it will succeed in drastically increasing the carnage.