U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas

U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas
September 29th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas

U.S. Stops Spec Ops Raids Into Pakistani Tribal Areas
Army Times
October 6, 2008
Pg. 10

By Sean D. Naylor
U.S. special operations forces have paused ground operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but military and civilian government officials differ over why the cross-border raids have been halted.
The issue of U.S. raids into the tribal areas was thrust into the international spotlight by a Sept. 3 raid in Angor Adda, in the South Waziristan tribal agency, by Navy SEALs working for a Joint Special Operations Command task force.
“We have shown a willingness starting this year to pursue those kinds of missions,” a Pentagon official said. However, he said, after temporarily granting JSOC more latitude to do cross-border missions, U.S. leaders had decided to restrain the command, at least as far as cross-border missions with ground troops are concerned, to allow Pakistani forces to press attacks on militants in the tribal areas.
“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those types of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” the Pentagon official said. The pause did not apply to airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles at targets inside tribal areas.
Although JSOC is the organization tasked, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, with finding and killing or capturing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Sept. 3 raid was not aimed at “a huge type of target,” the Pentagon official said. “There were just consistent problems in that area that had come to a point where there was significant evidence that there was complicity on the part of the [Pakistani military’s] Frontier Corps and others in allowing repetitive raids and activities to go on. And there was a firm desire to, one, send a message, and two, also establish any intelligence audit that could be established that would be useful to respond to a frequent question that we get from the other side of the border, which is, ‘Well, show us and tell us where the problem is, then we’ll deal with it.’”
But a U.S. government official closely involved with policy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region said the military had underestimated the Pakistani response and was reconsidering its options.
The official’s comments were echoed by a field grade special operations officer with Afghanistan experience.
The Sept. 3 raid “was an opportunity to see how the new Pakistani government reacted,” the officer said. “If they didn’t do anything, they were just kind of fairly passive, like [former Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf was, ... then we felt like, OK, we can slowly up the ante, we can do maybe some more of these ops. But the backlash that happened, and especially the backlash in the diplomatic channels, was pretty severe.”
The raid represented “a strategic miscalculation,” the U.S. government source said. “We did not fully appreciate the vehemence of the Pakistani response,” which included the Pakistan government’s implication that it was willing to cut the coalition’s supply lines through Pakistan.
The military’s comments about the Sept. 3 raid sending a message represented a smokescreen, said the government official, who added that the mission “was meant to be the beginning of a campaign.”
“Once the Pakistanis started talking about closing down our supply routes, and actually demonstrated they could do it, once they started talking about shooting American helicopters, we obviously had to take seriously that maybe this [approach] was not going to be good enough,” the government official said. “We can’t sustain ourselves in Afghanistan without the Pakistani supply routes. At the end of the day, we had to not let our tactics get in the way of our strategy.”
However, a Washington source in government said, “I don’t think there’s been another strategic decision to back off.” Instead, JSOC would “go about it a different way.”
U.S. Central Command spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith declined to comment for this story.
Under questioning on Capitol Hill Sept. 23, Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not deny that U.S. forces had made cross-border strikes. “We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,” he said, acknowledging the Pentagon had been granted “authorities” for such action.
Past FATA raids
The Sept. 3 raid was not the first time JSOC forces, the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DevGru, also known as SEAL Team 6, have launched into the tribal areas.
In the past, small JSOC elements have operated with the Pakistani Special Services Group in the tribal areas, and the special operations officer with Afghanistan experience said he was aware of “two or three” cross-border operations similar to the Angor Adda raid. “They have happened, but it was by no means a common occurrence,” he said.
However, the government official closely involved with Afghanistan-Pakistan policy said, JSOC “has been pushing hard for several years” to step up their raids into the tribal areas. JSOC’s argument has been “Give us greater latitude; we’ve got to hit where their sanctuaries are,” the official said.
“In the wake of the increased Taliban attacks we’ve seen over the last several months and the sense of frustration that we haven’t been more successful, their point of view has finally gained traction,” the government official said.
Two government sources identified the Taliban’s July 13 attack on a U.S. outpost in the Korengal valley as a turning point in the debate.
“Clearly, we saw what happened in the Korengal valley as a watershed moment,” said the government official closely involved with policy in the region.
The Sept. 3 raid into Pakistan is part of a heightened operational tempo for JSOC forces based in Afghanistan, several sources said.
JSOC has expanded its target list from the original so-called “big three” of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar to a broader list that includes figures in the Taliban-allied network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami group (sometimes referred to as HiG by the U.S. military).
The U.S. government official involved with policy in the area described JSOC’s targets as fitting into two categories: the “big guys” with whom the U.S. has “unfinished business,” and “those people that threaten us operationally and tactically on the ground right now.”
Several sources said the Sept. 3 raid appeared to have been aimed at the Haqqani network, along with some of its Uzbek allies.
JSOC is “targeting a range of actors, but one of the big ones is Haqqani,” said a civilian expert on Afghanistan, adding that targeting the Haqqani network represented “payback” for its alleged involvement in attacks on the Indian embassy, the Serena hotel in Kabul and an assassination attempt against Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S. government official closely involved with the region’s policy agreed that U.S. forces were targeting Haqqani as “payback,” but also because the network — mostly controlled by Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin — “is seen as ... the low-hanging fruit,” because its bases in Waziristan are more easily accessible than the terrain of the Bajaur tribal agency, where Hekmatyar’s fighters operate.
“None of the JSOC activity has been going on in the areas around the sanctuary for Mullah Omar’s Taliban,” which is located in and around the Pakistani city of Quetta, the civilian expert on Afghanistan said. “It’s all happening in the tribal areas.”

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