Pakistan Did Not Agree to New Rules, Officials Say
Friday, September 12, 2008
New rules of engagement authorizing U.S. ground attacks inside Pakistan, signed by President Bush in July, were not agreed to by that country's civilian government or its military, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the Pakistani army's chief of staff, was informed last month by senior U.S. defense officials that if Pakistan failed to stem the flow of Taliban and other militant fighters into Afghanistan, the United States would adopt a new strategy, one allowing ground strikes on targeted insurgent encampments. A senior Pakistani official said that Kiyani believed the strategy was still under discussion and that Pakistan's counterinsurgency performance was improving.
News of Bush's order, following a strike last week by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos on a village about 20 miles inside Pakistan, brought denunciation yesterday from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who echoed Kiyani's earlier charge that the attack had violated Pakistani sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said at a news conference in Kabul that he approved of the new U.S. strategy, citing the need to "remove and destroy" insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. But NATO said it had no intention of sending any of the 48,000 troops under its command in Afghanistan across the border. NATO's U.N. mandate does not include "ground or air incursions . . . into Pakistani territory," said spokesman James Appathurai.
Nearly 31,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, divided between the NATO command and a separate force under the U.S. Central Command.
A senior European official said that the NATO allies shared U.S. concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and were aware new U.S. rules were under consideration, but that they were unaware the rules had been approved. Bush's July order, first reported yesterday by the New York Times, was confirmed by several U.S. officials.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, said U.S. officials assured him yesterday that "no such order had been given." The United States, he said, "respects Pakistan's sovereignty."
The senior European official called the implementation of the new strategy "peculiar," since its timing coincided with this week's inauguration of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
"If you're going to invade another country . . . without their permission, after you've just spent eight years trying to get a democratic government in place, it strikes me as kind of confused politics," the official said.
Zardari plans to meet with Bush this month, either in Washington or in New York at the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. officials said.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that he had called for an overhaul of U.S. strategy, including greater U.S. military involvement in Pakistan's tribal areas, but gave no indication that orders had already been given.
"I'm not convinced that we're winning it in Afghanistan," Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee. But, he added, "I'm convinced we can."