A US predator drone hit a guest house of supporters of Baitullah Mahsud in South Waziristan on Saturday, killing about 20 persons and wounding 15. Mahsud is the leader of the Movement of Pakistani Taliban Those killed were mostly foreign fighters, especially Arabs and Uzbeks. NATO and the Karzai government blame Pakistani tribal agencies like South Wazizirstan for giving safe harbor to forces that go across the border to hit Afghan police and other targets.
Such strikes, ane especially the civilian casualties they often cause, are extremely unpopular in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Senator Diane Feinstein let the cat out of the bag when she said that the predator flights are flown from Pakistani bases. That would indicate that the Pakistani government, which loudly protests the attacks in public, has made a secret deal to protect its policy of cooperating with the US against the Taliban from bad publicity.
Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy asks the good question of whether the US is repeating the mistakes of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Soviets were mainly urban-based, and launched a war against the tribal counrtyside, which they considered reactionary.
Reuters asks the same question, which tells us something.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai tells Aljazeera that he has not spoken to President Barack Obama since the latter was sworn in in January. It seems clear that the Obama team views Karzai as a Bush crony who is personally corrupt and ineffective, and are willing to risk bad realtions in order to push the Afghan elite to adopt new policies.
Karzai is said to have told Fareed Zakaria, in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, “Perhaps they have not been given the information yet. And I hope as they settle down, as they learn more, we will see better judgment.”
Karzai was responding to comments by Obama that the Karzai government seemed uninterested in controlling the provinces, far outside the capital. I don’t know when the central government in that country ever really controlled people throughout its territory. It is not Sweden, and an attempt to make it so will be a costly failure.
Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, met with Karzai on Saturday and the US and Afghanistan issued a joint statement that the US will try to be more careful, in air strikes, about killing innocent civilians.
Despite the frosty relations between the new US president and Kabul, Obama is said to have made a concession and will allow Afghanistan to be part of the administration’s policy review on that country.
A recent poll found declining Afghan support for the US/NATO military mission in Afghanistan, now at 61 percent. Some 77 percent said that NATO airstrikes that put innocent civlians at risk were “unacceptable.”
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