Saturday, 4 October 2008
I spent some time around different parts of the middle east prior to the Iraq war, and one of the things I remember from the period was the local television reports describing escalation of American planes flying along borders and demolishing radar installations and similar. Whilst it was regularly reported in the region, it didn't seem to have the same coverage in the UK. Also, at the time it was difficult to triangulate the stories because of the possibilities of spin and propaganda, so I mainly have it as a mental marker.
I'm similarly noticing what is happening at present along the borders of Pakistan, with increases in American activity, after George Bush gave the order to allow special forces to operate inside Pakistan. Nowadays the planes are unmanned Predator MQ-1 drones flown by a remote pilot, with another different remote person responsible for controlling their Hellfire missile payload.
Some of the accounts ring similar to what I heard about pre-Iraq, where there's now reports of these American planes being used in hunting missions across the Pakistan borders, apparently without the agreement of nuclear-equipped Pakistan.
These cross border activities started early in September and seem to be progressively escalating. The US line is that the North Waziristan area is the 'wild west' of Pakistan and a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold. The US have sent planes and commandos into the area where they believe bin Laden is based and as part of actions to prevent a terrorist strike in the period leading up to the US Presidential elections.
The recent terrible Marriott hotel bombing, the subsequent cancellation of BA flights to Islamabad, the evacuation of UK diplomats' children and the allegedly US driven Mohammad Khel missile strike at the end of Ramadan, are all signs of the escalating situation in this area.
The combination of the current global economic tailspin and the vying for attention of the new Presidential candidates has distracted attention from this tightening situation. The George Bush sanctioned moves now effectively extend the zone of US military operations from Iraq and Afghanistan into Pakistan but are receiving far less commentary than they would at other times.