A series of Pakistan updates from StrategyPage includes a minor bombshell about US troops / CIA operating inside Pakistan -
May 25, 2005: Pakistani officials say that recent arrests of al Qaeda members has led to a breakthrough in finding out how Islamic terrorists are organized, and operate, in Pakistan. This had led to many more arrests, and paralysis of the terrorist organization inside Pakistan… May 23, 2005: The Pakistani government has admitted what has been widely known for several years: American troops and intelligence agencies have been allowed to operate, discretely, inside Pakistan. Recently, a terrorist leader was killed by a Hellfire missile, fired by a Predator UAV flying in Pakistani air space. American agents have been interrogating terrorism suspects held in Pakistani jails. This cooperation has been kept “secret” because so many Pakistanis find it distasteful. But Islamic terrorists have made themselves so unpopular in Pakistan, that admitting the cooperation has done less damage than expected.
Taste? The issue is actually far more than that… The classic, international test of sovereignty is a monopoly on legal force within your territory. The US isn’t allowed, for ex., to chase a fugitive into Canada – it’s instead supposed to inform & trust Canadian authorities and secure extradition instead.
Allowing US troops/CIA to conduct combat operations within your country is a major, uh, relaxation of the doctrine of force monopoly. In fact, under normal circumstances, such territorial violation – even if targetting someone else entirely – is tantamount to war. For example, this report of a border skirmish gives you an idea of the type of response such an incursion is supposed to receive -
Pakistan cooperates in operations to corner al-Qaida fugitives hiding along the 1,400-mile border but vehemently rejects suggestions that American troops should be allowed to cross into its territory. Pakistani troops opened fire on a joint US-Afghan patrol that strayed across the border on January 30, killing one Afghan soldier, Gen Hussain said. “We warned them ‘You are in Pakistan, please go back’ through a loudhailer, and fired warning shots in the air. They kept going. Thereafter we opened up on them,” he said.
My bet? This feisty story was part of the Pakistani govt’s PR game to preserve this important international norm. Clue #1? Just like Ensign Smith, the perenniel new, 5th guy on a Star Trek away team, it’s the unnamed Afghan who gets killed by the proud Pakistani Border Patrol. Then again, the hunt for Al Qaeda and, for that matter, Pakistan’s infamous Western territories are far from normal circumstances.