What was that Zardari was saying about the war on terror being “Pakistan’s own war”?
Friend and Ally Update: “Pakistan army pledges to “˜protect territorial integrity’ from U.S. incursions,” by Saeed Shah for the McClatchy Newspapers, September 13 (thanks to James):
Pakistan’s army chief, responding to a series of U.S. military strikes into Pakistan’s tribal areas, pledged Friday to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity and claimed the full backing of Pakistan’s elected civilian government.
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani issued the statement after U.S. forces Friday apparently launched yet another missile attack against a house in Pakistan’s tribal area, killing at least 12 people.
Kayani spoke at the end of a two-day meeting of top commanders to consider how to respond to the U.S. incursions when the latest attack occurred. Before the meeting began, Kayani described a U.S. ground assault into Pakistani territory as “reckless.” His statement at the end of the meeting appeared to warn of a possible direct confrontation with U.S. forces if the incursions continue.
“All elements of the National Power under the new democratic leadership will safeguard the territorial integrity of Pakistan with full support and backing of the people of Pakistan,” the army chief of staff said. He said there was a “complete unanimity of views” between the elected government and the Pakistan army.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated there would be no change in U.S. operations, but he didn’t confirm the incursions into Pakistan. “Our commanders have the authorities they need to protect our troops in Afghanistan,” he told reporters. Other U.S. officials discounted Kayani’s statement as aimed at Pakistan’s domestic audience. […]
Indicating continuing willful blindness about Pakistan’s double game.
Pakistani public opinion was already incensed by the U.S. airstrikes into its territory, which have intensified over the past few weeks and have killed civilians as well as militants. That turned to uproar after the first ground assault by U.S. commandos onto its soil earlier this month, in South Waziristan, another part of the tribal territory that runs along the Afghan border. The country was stunned over a New York Times report this week President Bush had secretly authorized the new policy of incursions into Pakistan in July.
Asif Ali Zardari, head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party who last week became the first democratically elected president of Pakistan in nine years, has tried to challenge public opinion by declaring the U.S.-led fight against terror as “Pakistan’s own war.”
But his aides privately admitted that the task of selling the alliance with Washington had become much harder as a result of the American incursion. The biggest opposition group, Nawaz Sharif’s party, demanded Friday that Zardari call a special session of parliament as “the nation is under threat of war” from the United States.
“The democratic government is caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place,” said Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “Mr. Zardari and the People’s Party wants to be tough with the militants but they do not have support in the country, where there is growing anti-American sentiment largely fueled by the indiscriminate missile attacks and cross-border incursions.”…