September 4th, 2008
12:44 PM ET

Outrage in Pakistan for American-led attack

Nic Robertson
Senior International Correspondent

It's been over a year since I've been in Pakistan.

For the longest time I couldn't get a visa, my reporting on former President Musharraf's failed policies to take on the Taliban had apparently won me powerful enemies Pakistani insiders told me. But that's all changed now.

The former military dictator is out of power and the new government says it wants to open it's doors to all reporters. Political leadership isn't the only thing that's changed. When I was last here Spring 2007 the Taliban were a growing problem in the border region, now they are much stronger and the government is waging an increasingly violent war against them.

When I pick up the daily news papers here the headlines are dominated by reports of pro government tribes taking on the Taliban, government jets bombing Taliban hide outs. It was never this way before.

But lest I convey the wrong image here that the government is winning handily senior officials tell me they are deeply concerned about progress in this fight. There is a feeling despite their efforts they are only treading water, not beating the Taliban. The big challenge they tell me is getting popular support for a war Musharraf only ever characterized as an extension of the US war on terror.

To win officials tell me they need to sell the message to Pakistanis, particularly those in the Afghan border region that this fight is their fight. That Pakistan is not blindly fighting the war on terror for the United States but is tackling a very real threat to it's own stability and future.

Two ministers and a High Commissioner all told me nothing undermines those efforts more than US air strikes in Pakistan. So when we started getting reports US troops had come by helicopter and conducted a ground attack inside Pakistan it was clear reaction there would be an angry official reaction.

When the Foreign Minister issued a statement "strongly condemning the assault" calling it "unacceptable" a "gross violation of Pakistan's territory" and a "grave provocation" I was some what surprised when a retired Pakistani army General here told me the anger expressed could have been far greater.

He told me it was the first time he'd heard reports of US ground troops in such an attack in Pakistan. It forced him he said to consider something most Pakistanis might find hard to swallow, perhaps the new government, eager to bolster their grip on power and secure US support had signaled an increased willingness for US troops to conduct cross border operations. If it were true he said it's so sensitive it would never be announced. The government would always have plausible deniability.

I'm certainly not getting any hints of such a deal from officials, although they all convey with a very real passion an extreme dislike for the Taliban.

What's clear now that I'm back in Pakistan; the dynamic is far more fluid than before I left, after all, only today the Prime Minister's armored limo was shot up on a busy highway.

The stakes could not be higher, the government is still fragile, the Taliban getting stronger, I'm in no doubt any perceived mistakes by the new leaders will be exploited by their enemies, military and political. And that could directly impact the United States if what little gains have been achieved against the Taliban leech away as support for the government falls.

Everyone here is telling me now is the time for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States to accept this is a regional war, trust each other, work together, to defeat a common enemy.

What's worrying me, we've heard all this before. And I see little indication the compromises necessary to achieve cooperation between the three countries have even entered public dialogue, never mind won support from Pakistan's people.

Filed under: Global 360° • Nic Robertson • TV
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Wain

    Sam – My family lives in Pakistan and I am sure none of the people of Pakistan are happy with foreign forces on their turf.

    Pakistan has fought three wars since independence against a much more powerful India and will fight if US invades. This is invasion of a soverign country, nothing else.

    Julie – Have you seen the madrassas in Pakistan? Or do you just see those on western media. Do you have any proof of saudi funded madrassas in Pakistan? The only support Taliban had was from US untill 6 month before 9/11 to take out the russians and later to root out the war lords. Its documented in alot of sources and by writer who is as American as any 'Chomsky'.

    September 4, 2008 at 7:12 pm |
  2. Sandra Robertson, Ga.

    Good evening Nic. I sincerely hope, with the newly elected president of Pakistan this Saturday, affairs with the US will change for the better and we will be able to work together for peace within the region, sparing innocent lives caught up in what is and what will forever be called the war on terrorism. Thank you for the report Nic.

    September 4, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  3. Saad, NJ

    Firstly Nic, as a Pakistani-American, I thank you for all the reporting efforts that you do in that region.

    What is happening today in Pakistan is what I and most of my friends living in the U.S. but in very touch with affairs in Pakistan have feared for over three years now. Bush administration's Pakistan policy and Musharraf's blind support for Bush administration, or at least lack of logical argument against it was destined to create this atmosphere. It was destined to strengthen the so called militants and their power to recruit the deprived and uneducated warriors. We gave birth to – and supported the Taliban to fight the Russians. Now that we needed to fight the Taliban themselves after 9/11, look at where we have gotten! How much success have we really achieved in Afghanistan? Depends on who is defining success but to me, declaring success in Afghanistan anytime in the near future or ever will be same as President Bush getting on the ship with a banner on the back stating ‘mission accomplished! 5 or years, more than half a trillion dollars, 5000 of our brave men and women, half a million innocent Iraqis’ later, where are we with mission accomplished?

    We have created the same environment or at least given a reason to the influential evil powers in Northern Pakistan to capitalize on the ignorance of the uneducated and the unemployed to hire and train them to go out and kill innocent people. We then call these people terrorists and the fight against them as War on Terror.

    But what does all that really mean? And what are we going to achieve by continuing to bomb an area or a region that prospered, in a very unfortunate and an extremely negative way, but still the fact that it prospered due to our lack of knowledge on how to effectively deal with that area/region in the first place. I laugh when President Bush himself or someone associated with him talks about how we need to deal with terrorism on the offense versus on the defense. To them, dealing with terrorism on the offense means bombing. I agree that indeed that is one way of dealing with it. But what about being on the offensive via 'Economic Prosperity'. Help create an economic prosperous environment and help build schools so the mentality of young children will become the same as the mentality of young children here in our country or like children in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad where killing innocents is believed to be the worst thing that one can do in life, regardless of what religion and what nationality the target is from.

    We have sent millions and millions of dollars to Musharraf and Company which we have no account of how and where it were used. I am not asking for extra dollars but the same that we sent over to Pakistan in six years now, had we made sure that part of it went to helping the region prosper economically, we would have avoided the evil powers in the region to effectively recruit the less fortunate and uneducated young men to fall prey to the evil powers who promise a reward to these innocents if they bomb other innocents and kill themselves while at it.

    Bush administration is on its way out. Musharraf is already history. Whether President Obama or President McCain will understand this philosophy and to what extent is yet to be seen. But I pray to God, for the sake of America, Pakistan, and the rest of the world they do better than what Bush & company and what Musharraf and Company have done. My hopes are with our next President because now in Pakistan, with Asif Zardari poised to be the next President, only God, if he comes down to earth physically can save Pakistan from deteriorating further, economically and otherwise.

    September 4, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  4. harold

    this was nothing more than a speech.it gave us no idea what the republicans will do to lead this country.After 8 years of the most incompetent , clueless president in US history. The rich had their president, its time for the common people to have their's.

    September 4, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  5. Melissa, Los Angeles

    How many more wars are we going to send our troops into all in the name of "fighting terrorism" before Bush is finally out of office? This is Pakistan's fight and not ours. We don't have another $10 Billion a month to fight another war in another country if it turns into that. All this fear mongering and attacks by the Republicans last night have done nothing more but push me into voting for Obama. Notice how they never mentioned Bush? His incompetence was so bad they couldn't even talk about how good the past 8 years were because it would've been untrue!

    September 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  6. mary steiner

    Cindy of Georgia.

    Do you guys in "Geoja" ever learn how to think for yourselves?
    or do you just let the media do the thinking for you.

    go vote for your republican bunch and stay in the quagmire as this country is now!

    September 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Wain

    Cindy – US created the Taleban to take out Russia and now want to bomb them along with scores of civilians. US supported Taliban until 6 months before 9/11.

    Shame on US for supporting these secret missions which put so much fear in the lives of the innocents living in the region.

    Do you bomb a project in US, if its causing a lot of problems?

    Bombs dont know a terrorist from an innocent. And US officials didnt even care to take count of the civilian neighborhood they ambushed in Pakistan. Shame on the bully and cowardly US government.

    September 4, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  8. Julie San Diego, CA

    Hey Nic,

    Please comment on the Saudi-financed madrassas which act as training grounds for the Taliban and are the only real alternative for an education for some of the kids in those outlying areas. Just like gang warfare in America's urban areas, joining the Taliban is the only viable occupation some of these young men have open to them.

    Stay safe, hope to see you on t.v. once everyone gets over their fascination with the Pitbull with Lipstick.

    Sometimes I think you're lucky you are over there....

    September 4, 2008 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Heather

    Maybe if Osama attacked them in the same proportion as when we were attacked they would think differently. I'm sorry we inconvenienced them. I'm glad finally our soldiers get to do their job.

    September 4, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Sam, CA

    The headline for this artcile is a bit misleading. At first I was under the impression that "Outrage in Pakistan for American-led attack" meant just that. However, it seems that the people of Pakistan are happy, but the media & military aren't taking that stance just yet.

    September 4, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  11. Cindy

    I am glad that the Pakistanis finally allowed the US in to attack the terrorist. If they would have done that from the beginning they wouldn't have such a strong hold there. Hopefully Pakistan will let us do many more secret missions.


    September 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm |