The discovery of three American soldiers among the dead in a suicide bombing at the opening of a girls’ school in the northwestern Pakistan town of Dir last week reignited the fears of many Pakistanis that Washington was set on invading their country.
Barack Obama has banned the Bush-era term “war on terror” and dithered about sending extra troops to Afghanistan, but across the border in Pakistan, the US president has dramatically stepped up the covert war against Islamic extremists.
US airstrikes in Pakistan, launched from unmanned drones, are now averaging three a week, triple the number last year. “We’re quietly seeing a geographical shift,” an intelligence officer said.
For the past month drones have pounded the tribal region of North Waziristan in apparent retaliation for the murder of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan by a Jordanian suicide bomber working with the Pakistani Taliban.
At TomDispatch, Pratap Chatterjee wrote:
In recent years, many commentators and pundits have resorted to “the Vietnam analogy,” comparing first the American war in Iraq and now in Afghanistan to the Vietnam War. Despite a number of similarities, the analogy disintegrates quickly enough if you consider that U.S. military campaigns in post-invasion Afghanistan and Iraq against small forces of lightly-armed insurgents bear little resemblance to the large-scale war that Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon waged against both southern revolutionary guerrillas and the military of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, who commanded a real army, with the backing of, and supplies from, the Soviet Union and China.
A more provocative — and perhaps more ominous — analogy today might be between the CIA’s escalating drone war in the contemporary Pakistani tribal borderlands and Richard Nixon’s secret bombing campaign against the Cambodian equivalent.