A confusing series of news items coming out of Pakistan... Somewhere in this mess there is a connecting thread, although I fear if pulled too hard there could be some serious unraveling afoot.
Pakistan orders troops to open fire if US raids (AP)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.
The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.
Pakistani officials warn that stepped-up cross-border raids will accomplish little while fueling violent religious extremism in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some complain that the country is a scapegoat for the failure to stabilize Afghanistan.
...Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids. [More]
Then, 3 days later Aviation Week reports...
Pakistan May Participate In Red Flag Exercise
The Defense Department is inviting the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) to participate in the Red Flag aerial combat training exercise next year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
An Air Force spokesman told Aerospace DAILY there is “a possibility that the Pakistani Air Force will participate in a Red Flag in 2009.” Group Capt. Ahmer Shehzad, the air attaché at the Pakistani embassy, confirmed that the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) had been invited to Red Flag, but he said officials in Islamabad will decide whether to accept the invitation. India, Pakistan’s regional rival – the two countries have fought three wars since they both gained independence in 1947 – participated in Red Flag for the first time this past summer. [photo: Pakistan Air Force, via European Pressphoto Agency]
First indications of Pakistan’s participation came at a hearing before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee earlier this week in which State and Defense Department witnesses tried to persuade skeptical lawmakers of the merits of reprogramming more than $250 million in military assistance funding to pay for upgrades to Pakistan’s aging fleet of F-16A/Bs (Aerospace DAILY, Sept. 17).
Bush administration officials insisted that the U.S.-funded upgrades to Pakistan’s 1980s F-16s will be used to counter al Qaeda terrorism – not Indian air superiority.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Burton M. Field, vice director of strategic plans and policy on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told committee members the upgrades will allow the PAF to conduct close air support and precision strikes at night – which it can’t do now...
On the surface this looks like a colossally bad idea, however, having our loosely defined "allies" here to see first hand the capabilities of our well trained Air Forces and demonstrating just how well they would fare if it were ever to come to... to... well, what seems to be wished for by a certain Pakistani General Abbas, might not be such a bad idea after all.
Then this past weekend...
Al Qaeda suspected of Pakistan's Marriott bombing (Reuters)
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomb attack that killed 53 people at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital bore the hallmarks of an operation by al Qaeda or an affiliate, Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials said on Sunday.
..."The sophistication of the blast shows it's the work of al Qaeda," a Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters.
...Pakistan's army is in the midst of an offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border. The United States has intensified attacks on militants on the Pakistani side of the border, alienating many Pakistanis.
And finally there is this 9 hours ago...
Did Pakistan soldiers shoot at US helicopters? (AP)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — U.S. helicopters flew into Pakistan's militant-infested border region, but returned to Afghanistan after troops and tribesmen opened fire, intelligence officials said Monday. Washington denied the account.
...A series of suspected U.S. missile strikes into the lawless region and a Sept. 3 raid by U.S. commandos said to have killed 15 people have highlighted U.S. impatience and angered many Pakistanis.
Two intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media said two U.S. helicopters crossed one mile into Pakistan in the Alwara Mandi area in North Waziristan on Sunday.
Citing informants in the field, they said Pakistani troops and tribesmen responded with small arms fire, but it was not clear whether it was aimed at the choppers or just warning shots.
The helicopters did not return fire and re-entered Afghan airspace without landing, the officials said.
That account was denied by Pentagon officials. "There was no such incursion; there was no such event," said Defense Department spokesman Col. Gary L. Keck,
...Its military chief and newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari have said the missile strikes and incursions were violations of Pakistan's sovereignty and only fueled extremist violence.
Zardari, who is expected to meet President Bush in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week, reiterated that he welcomed U.S. intelligence help, but not its troops.
"Give us the intelligence and we will do the job," he said in an interview with NBC. "It's better done by our forces than yours."
Maybe its just me, but is the temperature rising a bit in Alwara Mandi?
And finally here at home the burner knobs are being twisted a bit more by our political candidates. Joe Biden chimes in with...
"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden said. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."
The helo Biden was in was "Forced Down" by a SNOW STORM! Or maybe the PIC is being accused of forcing the helicopter down in fit of overzealously good judgment... [more]
Biden said that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "says he’ll follow them to the gates of hell. You don’t have to go to hell. Just go to Pakistan. Just go to that area. That superhighway of terror that exists between Afghanistan and Pakistan."
And the $64,000 question... "And do what, that we aren't already doing?"