The government of Pakistan is angry at what it terms an American incursion within its territory that resulted in the death of 20 civilians including women and children. The attack occurred in a remote South Waziristan village. Pakistan officials claim three helicopter gunships and commandos were involved in a pre-dawn attack on a house in the village. Witnesses said troops entered the house of a local tribesman, opened fire, and threw a bomb into the house. Pakistan military officials said they had the right to retaliate against those who conducted the operation. Prime Minister Gilani termed the attack “cowardly” and “outrageous” and expressed his anger that US forces were conducting military operations within his nation without authorization of the Pakistan government.
There is no doubt Taliban and al-Qaeda forces operate within Pakistan territory. The issue that has yet to be adequately addressed is how best to deal with this situation. American military leaders want action, Pakistan government officials want to use negotiation. Until that difference is bridged this will not be an isolated incident.
The United States continually complains about failure on the part of the Pakistan government to curtail Taliban and al-Qaeda operations, but ultimately, the success of such operations depends on willingness of tribal chiefs to give their support to government efforts. Prime Minister Syed Yousef Raza Gilani met with tribal leaders in order to secure their cooperation. “The tribals must rise to to the occasion and help support the government in its endeavors to curb extremism and terrorism fro their areas.” He acknowledged economic development was a key point in defeating extremism by offering people improved economic conditions.
Many tribal leaders emphasized failure on the part of government forces to halt terrorist attacks on innocent villages was a prime factor in having people lose confidence their government could protect them in the volatile world of northwest Pakistan. Gilani insisted he wanted to resolve problems by peaceful means, “but can anyone of you tell me how to deal with elements bent on militancy? I am deadly against use of force but some elements are compelling the government to take harsh decisions.”
America’s emphasis on military action to defeat insurgents must be equally as focused on economic development. Force without attaining support from local populations is an invitation to disaster.