Pakistan missile strike nets only Pakistani hostility

Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 10:23 AM

Convinced that we knew where Ayman al-Zawahri was, according to news reports, CIA-operated Predator drone aircraft carried out a missile strike inside Pakistan.  Yesterday: much anticipation of consequences.  Today: consequences seem pretty bad.

The AP reports that:

"Pakistan on Saturday condemned a purported CIA airstrike on a border village that officials said unsuccessfully targeted al-Qaida's second-in-command, and said it was protesting to the U.S. Embassy over the attack that killed at least 17 people.

"Thousands of local tribesmen, chanting "God is Great," demonstrated against the attack, claiming the victims were local villagers without terrorist links and had never hosted Ayman al-Zawahri."

Estimates of the dead appear to range from 17 to 30.  And Washington?  Won't confirm that they were after al-Zawahri, and, in fact, "In Washington, Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and intelligence officials all said they had no information on the reports concerning al-Zawahri. A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lt. Mike Cody, referred questions on the matter to the Pentagon."

If it turns out that we fired the rockets, whether we had tacit Pakistani approval or not, and that al-Zawahri wasn't there but a bunch of innocent villagers were.....we just made it a lot harder for Pervez Musharraf to survive as the head of Pakistan, and a whole bunch harder for Pakistan to cooperate closely with us on any future operations.
UPDATE FOR 1-15-06 Updated info on the irstrike by Rueters indicates that "A dinner invitation to al Qaeda's second-in-command triggered a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan but Ayman al-Zawahri failed to show up, Pakistani intelligence officials said on Sunday."

Update [2006-1-22 12:19:23 by Lee Russ]: According to a Saturday AP report, "Musharraf assured visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns that Pakistan would not waver in its support for Washington's war on terrorism but said such airstrikes must not be repeated, a Foreign Ministry official said. The attack prompted nationwide protests calling for Musharraf's ouster."

One last question from me: How do you think Americans would feel if a foreign country executed an airstrike on a small village in Montana because the leaders of that country thought that one of their enemies was holed up there? Think there'd be some unrest among the American population? Think there'd be some serious pressure on the President to do something about it?