He Said, She Said

A news report a while back talked about the rapid adoption of in-car video cameras for cops on patrol & the qualitative changes it was introducing to law enforcement. In some quarters, the initial rationale for videotaping folks on the job was to keep tabs on the cops themselves. But, far more often, and the reason the cops themselves eventually became enthusiastic proponents of “dash-cams” was that they often helped defend their version of events.

Instead of the old world of conflicting accounts, presumptions, and testimonies, we’re now often able to hit the play button on the VCR and see some (but clearly not all) of the story for ourselves. A traffic misdeed coupled with efficient, lawful capture by the police, all caught on tape, more or less gaurantees a swift conviction in the eyes of judge and jury.

Interestingly, a recent incident in the GWOT has Pakistan up in arms and the narrative may similarly pivot around a critical, live video. A few days ago, front page news from Pakistan discussed how their forces were “cowardly” attacked by coalition forces on the Afghan border -

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistan said a “cowardly” air strike by US-led forces killed 11 Pakistani troops on Wednesday near the Afghan border and warned that it had harmed cooperation in the war against terrorism.


The army accused the US-led coalition in Afghanistan of launching an unprovoked attack on a checkpost in Pakistan’s volatile Mohmand tribal zone while the foreign office demanded an investigation.

In an unusually harsh statement, a Pakistani army spokesman “condemned this completely unprovoked and cowardly act” and said 11 soldiers died in the overnight air strike, including an officer.

“The incident had hit at the very basis of cooperation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in the war against terror,” the statement quoted the spokesman as saying.


p>And in response, the US released footage from the GWOT version of the dash-cam, an unmanned drone -

The LAT’s coverage summarizes the video; an incident likely staged from a new military base SM covered earlier this year-

The gray, grainy 6 1/2 -minute video appears to show militants on a hilltop in Afghanistan’s mountainous Kunar province, a vantage point from which they unleash small-arms and rocket fire on coalition troops below. A voice dubbed over the video says that the coalition soldiers then try to regroup at a location where a helicopter could rescue them.

A bright flash bursts on the screen, a “precision bomb” that the narrator says killed two of the militants on the Pakistani side of the border. But, the voice adds, “it is clear that there are no military structures or outposts in the area.”

At least three more bombs explode, killing the remaining militants, the narrator says. The video does not account for other bombs that U.S. military officials acknowledge were dropped in the area.

Speaking to reporters traveling with President Bush in Europe, national security advisor Stephen Hadley said U.S. officials had “not been able to corroborate” the Pakistani charges about the airstrike.

“One of the problems is that it is still not exactly clear what happened,” Hadley said, according to the Associated Press. “The reports, quite frankly, even from sources within the United States, are conflicting.”


p>So which version of the story should we believe? And interestingly, because he-said, she-said often boils down to hidden, initial presumptions, another question is, minus the video, whose version of the story would you have been more inclined to believe?

Either way, the world got a little murkier and the disconnect between the world of diplomacy and the “facts on the ground” was proven yet again. The implications are aptly hinted in this interview

“Every indication we have at this point is that the actions that were taken by US forces were legitimate in that they were in self-defense after US forces operating on the border of Pakistan in Afghanistan territory came under attack from hostile forces and, in self-defense, they called in an air strike which took out those forces that were attacking them,” the spokesman, Geoff Morell, said Asked if the Pakistani troops had been firing at the US forces which would back up their case that it was legitimate self-defence, Morell said: “Well, this is a little bit of a slippery slope, because I don’t want to get into the particulars of what the 101st is releasing… But clearly… our forces came under attack, came under fire, from forces that had come over from the Pakistani side, into Afghan territory, and then retreated into Pakistani territory and continued to fire upon our forces, even though we did not pursue them into Pakistan.”

Belmont Club goes the next step and outlines the new catch-22 in this only partially Westphalian corner of the world

The situation poses a number of strategic dilemmas for the US. US-led forces may have to assume the security responsibility for an area that Pakistan has effectively abandoned to the Taliban while simultaneously being pummeled by the “outrage” of same Pakistani politicians who abdicated it in the first place. In the worst case Pakistan will demand all the dignities of sovereignty over an area for which they will assume no meaningful control. At the same time, the US must respond to this situation without wholly alienating Pakistan through which the bulk of US supplies pass.

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9 thoughts on “He Said, She Said

  1. Belmont Club goes the next step and outlines the new catch-22 in this only partially Westphalian corner of the world -

    For a moment, I thought you were talking about Gitmo in light of the new Supreme Court decision. And then the words “Belmont Club” registered…

  2. Taking into account Pakistan’s record of sponsoring cross border terrorism in India, I find it difficult to believe that the soldiers killed were innocent of any wrong doing.

    Furthermore the missiles employed in the video don’t seem to have a massive destructive radius, as witnessed by the initial strike that killed only two Afghani fighters. I would figure the Pakistani soldiers would have had to be practically holding hands with the Afghani fighters to be killed in this manner.

  3. What this all boils down to for me is one question: why would US forces launch an unprovoked attack on Pakistani territory?

  4. Interestingly there was this news item just a couple of days before this US strike:

    US think tank: Pakistan helped Taliban insurgents Mon Jun 9, 4:39 PM ET KABUL, Afghanistan – Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban insurgents and have given them information about American troop movements in Afghanistan, said a report published Monday by a U.S. think tank. The study, “Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan,” found some active and former officials in Pakistan’s intelligence service and the Frontier Corps — a Pakistani paramilitary force deployed along the Afghan border — provided direct assistance to Taliban militants and helped secure medical care for wounded fighters. It said NATO officials have uncovered several instances of Pakistani intelligence agents providing information to Taliban fighters, even “tipping off Taliban forces about the location and movement of Afghan and coalition forces, which undermined several U.S. and NATO anti-Taliban military operations.” No timeframes were given.link

    Perhaps this was to send a message to the Pakistani military’s Taliban collaborators ?

  5. Rules of Engagement 101.

    The Pakistani Regulars were more than likely providing support fire that got them engaged.

    Although it never goes hot, India is routinely humiliated by PRC troops along the LoAC and sometimes killed by Bangladeshi troops. Nation’s will some modicum of self respect retaliate to deter. The Pakistani’s won’t be firing on I-For troops if they know whats best for them, even if they’re hiding couple meters into their own territory.

  6. It seems a bit curious that when there is a controversy over the US attacking Pakistani troops, we show a home movie of bombing someone else, admit that there were other bombs dropped, but do not show that film. Maybe there is some reason for not showing Pakistani troops firing on “US-led” forces but that could either be because we are apprehensive about stirring up the situation or that the Pakistanis, in fact, did not do so. We are never likely to know which it is and therefore have to rely on the long history of accuracy, candor, and truthfulness displayed by the US and allies (including Pakistan) in both Iraq and Afghanistan to form our opinions.

  7. The reason things are heating up in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border:


    “Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source.”

    “Intelligence on the whereabouts of Bin Laden is sketchy, but some analysts believe he is in the Bajaur tribal zone in northwest Pakistan. He has evaded capture for nearly seven years. “Bush is swinging for the fences in the hope of scoring a home run,” said an intelligence source, using a baseball metaphor.

    A Pentagon source said US forces were rolling up Al-Qaeda’s network in Pakistan in the hope of pushing Bin Laden towards the Afghan border, where the US military and bombers with guided missiles were lying in wait. “They are prepping for a major battle,” he said.”

    “The step-up in military activity has increased tensions between Pakistan and the US. A senior Pakistani government source said President Pervez Musharraf had given tacit support to Predator attacks on Al-Qaeda.”

  8. You would think that Bush would have waited for the capture of Bin Laden before declaring “Mission Accomplished” years ago and making an utter fool of himself. What is being done now is what Obama said he would have done from the beginning if he had been the President. Except that Obama would have gone into the Pakistani badlands with full force right after the routing of the Taliban in Afghanistan, ignoring all the manipulative whining by pakistani generals who dont have full control of that region in any case.

  9. So, why were the soldiers there in the first place? I mean there were Taliban insurgents firing at the US helicopter. The DOD (Department of Defense) has a video of the encounter. So many media reports have shown that the Taliban attack NATO troops in Afghanistan and then slip back across the Pakistan border. But as Vyasa mentioned, this could be the attempt of Bush to secure McCain’s nomination. Towards the end of Bush’s campaign, all of a sudden Osama is caught, and the current administration will insure it has another 4-8 years more of wars and not caring for people at its helm.