A U.S. soldier keeps watch over the Afghan-Pakistani border, hiding ground for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida fighters.
A secret executive order signed by President Bush grants U.S. military forces “carte blanche” to launch counterterrorist operations inside Pakistan. An attack last week under the auspices of the unprecedented July order is raising concerns: Pakistani officials declared the operation illegal, and international analysts fear an escalating conflict could start a regionwide war.
The new but very familiar unilateral approach by the Bush administration came at an odd time, before the U.S. presidential elections, before the swearing in of Asif Ali Zardari as Pakistan’s new president, and after the U.S. criticized Russia for its invasion of Georgia.
A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.
The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in “safe havens” in western Pakistan’s tribal belt is being lost.
Following Bush’s decision, US navy Seals commandos, backed by attack helicopters, launched a ground raid into Pakistan last week which the US claimed killed about two dozen insurgents. Pakistani officials condemned the raid as illegal and said most of the dead were civilians. US and Nato commanders are anxious to halt infiltration across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border of insurgents and weapons blamed for casualties among coalition troops. The killing of a US soldier in eastern Afghanistan yesterday brought American losses in 2008 to 112, the deadliest year since the 2001 intervention. The move is regarded as unprecedented in terms of sending troops into a friendly, allied country.