The Associated Press reported that “the soldiers were part of a small contingent of American soldiers training members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Pakistan's army and the U.S. Embassy said. The mission is trying to strengthen the ill-equipped and poorly trained outfit's ability to fight militants.”
Federal officials recently admitted to having as many as 200 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Pakistan, according to the New York Times. The U.S. policy of including U.S. combat troops mixing with Pakistani forces in Pakistan, the New York Times added, “has deliberately been kept low-key so as not to trespass onto Pakistani sensitivities about sovereignty, and not to further inflame high anti-American sentiment.”
Until recently, U.S. officials have repeatedly officially denied having any combat troops in Pakistan. Now that this lie has been exposed, the combination of troops on the ground with Washington's drone attacks in Pakistan — which have been drawing innocent civilian casualties in Pakistan for more than two years — risk creating widespread sympathy for the al Qaeda/Taliban fighters. The London Times noted that “Among the Pakistani public, there has been outcry at the attacks. Surveys constantly show that Pakistanis consider the US a greater threat than the Taliban, despite 3,021 Pakistani deaths in terrorist attacks last year. If the drones are controversial, the presence of US soldiers on Pakistani soil is far more so.”
Part of the reason behind Pakistani fear of increasing U.S. intervention may be because much of the terrorist violence in Pakistan is sectarian violence between local Sunni and Shia Muslims and is not related to al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the international "war on terror." A foreign adversary is far more threatening to people in any nation than longstanding domestic strife. The London Times notes that “U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan, launched from unmanned drones, are now averaging three a week, triple the number last year.”
The accelerating U.S. “war on terror” is increasingly taking on the appearance of a war against Islam generally to many in the Muslim world, as American military forces have engaged in frequent bombing attacks within at least four Islamic nations — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen — in recent weeks. The so-called “war on terror” has resulted in the alliance of many Islamic interest groups with al Qaeda that otherwise may never have worked together.
State Department officials have already admitted as much. Speaking of the Obama administration's program to buy off al Qaeda allies in Afghanistan (as the Bush administration did in Iraq), Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said of the State Department's reintegration program that “The majority of people fighting with the Taliban are not ideologically committed either to al-Qaeda or [Taliban chief] Mullah Omar, and that is what the integration program is all about."
The question is, will the United States continue to widen its war in the Middle East as native Islamic opposition to U.S. military efforts proliferates, or will the Obama administration chart a saner course that limits military intervention to bringing the actual perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks to justice?
Photo of rally against U.S. drone missile strikes in Karachi, Pakistan: AP Images