On 13th January missiles ripped through three village compounds in the Bajur tribal area of the NWFP Province. They ended up killing 18 innocent Pakistani civilians. The dead included 14 members of a single family. Among those killed were four children, aged between five and ten, and at least two women.
According to next day’s Dawn:
Government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that four aircraft violated the country’s airspace and entered the tribal area from Afghanistan’s troubled Kunar province at about 3am. The intruding aircraft fired at least nine missiles at houses in Damadola…Soon afterwards the US Defence Department denied that the US military had carried out any attacks in the area (source: Forbes)
It was the Washington Post that broke the news by reporting that the attack had been carried out by the CIA. According to the newspaper, the US intelligence agency had used one of its armed drones to carry out the attack and the intended target had been the al-Qaeda's deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Then quoting a US intelligence source the US newspaper further revealed:
"[The missile strike] would not have happened without Pakistani involvement," the source said, adding that Pakistanis were "heavily involved." He said the attack was planned and executed by a combination of CIA officers in Pakistan and Pakistani officials.Ouch!
Your Blogger has come to learn that when Pakistani officials went to Damadola on 14th January to obtain DNA samples from the dead (to ascertain whether Zawahiri had been killed), they were chased off by a violently incensed mob of villagers.
In any event, it turns out that Zawahiri (who apparently is married to a lady from the Mohmand tribe - the majority population in Damadola village) was not present at the time of the missile attack. A senior Pakistani intelligence has already confessed to the UK Independent, "He was invited for the dinner, but we have no evidence that he was present".
Not surprisingly our pro-US military ruler soon found himself struggling to overcome the embarrassment caused by the attack, especially since there was no dead Zawahiri to crow over.
And having been directly implicated in the debacle, our military regime desperately attempted to salvage the situation. As the UK Observer reported yesterday:
In a bid to distance themselves from what was looking like a tragic and counter-productive tactical error that had cost many innocent lives, Pakistan announced it would file a formal protest with the Americans. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference that the Pakistani government wanted 'to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to recur,' adding that the government had no information about al-Zawahiri.The regime’s task is not going to all that easy. As Pakistani journalist Farhan Bokhari writes in the UK Financial Times:
"If anything, the fallout from this attack only ensures greatly popularity for anti-Musharraf and anti-US elements in this country," warned an Arab diplomat in Islamabad.Yesterday thousands of protestors took to the streets in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar to vent their anger at the United States and Musharraf – one of their chants targeted Musharraf directly, according to the Daily Times, the demonstrators screamed in unison : ‘Any Friend of America is a Traitor’.
Analysts said mounting public distrust of the US had once again exposed General Musharraf's political isolation. Notwithstanding his pretence of being a liberal leader, Pakistan's main liberal political parties remain opposed to him.
"The fallout from this attack has just turned itself in to a big fiasco for General Musharraf and his US backers. This is a disaster for Musharraf. It's evidence for the people of Pakistan that the US indulges in gangsterism on their soil," warned Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani commentator on security affairs.
Lieutenant General Talat Masood, retired from the Pakistani army and now a defence and security affairs analyst, said the attack had prompted new questions over "the quality" of Pakistan's alliance with the US.
"Can the Americans come on your soil, fire upon and kill your citizens and the government doesn't have information of this attack in advance? Is there a missing trust element in all of this?That's what many Pakistanis would like to know," he said.
Since late 2001 the Pakistan regime has ceded control of several of its air bases to the US – these being the air bases located in Jacobabad, Dalbindin, Pasni and perhaps Shamsi. According to the Global Security Org website, both Jacobabad and Pasni bases have been sealed off with a 5km cordon being set up around the bases by our military.
The main US base is at Jacobabad which reportedly hosts small teams of the CIA, FBI, and Special Operations Forces.
Recently your Blogger was informed that a locally manufactured drone was undergoing operational testing when it was brought down by the US forces based in Jacobabad. It caused some local bewilderment as a source tells me that the Americans had been pre-warned of the drone’s flight path. One can therefore only surmise that these US teams based in Pakistan are beholden to no one, other than, of course, their own US authorities.