Pakistan Army will retaliate against U.S. attacks

The announcement comes at a time when the US is taking a more aggressive stance toward the rising insurgency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

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Further escalating a diplomatic row, Pakistan's Army says it will fire on US troops and drones that attempt to penetrate Pakistani territory in pursuit of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The heightened tension drew Pentagon officials to Islamabad and Kabul to calm rattled nerves.

"We reserve the right to retaliate for any aggression in self-defense and to protect our territory, civilians and soldiers," Major Murad Khan, a Pakistani military spokesman said, referring to US attacks on Pakistani soil, according to Bloomberg. The major added that "soldiers have instructions" to stop border violations.

That call was echoed by both Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as well as the newly inaugurated president, Asif Ali Zadari. But both men urged a diplomatic solution, according to the Daily Times, a leading English-language daily in Pakistan.

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"We do not jump to conclusions and will solve the issue through talks," said Mr. Gilani.

Moving quickly to de-escalate the flap, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, arrived on an unannounced visit to Islamabad on Tuesday, The New York Times reports.

The visit by the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, came as an uproar continued to grow in Pakistan about the incursion on Sept. 3, which severely strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, its top Muslim ally in the war against terrorism. The visit also coincided with conflicting accounts about a possible second American raid on Monday....
A Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the army reserved the right to use force to defend the country and its people, but he said there was "no change in policy."
Asked what the Pakistan military would do if there was a future incursion by American troops, he said: "There is a big if involved. We will see to it when such a situation arises."

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that the US is adopting a more aggressive stance toward the escalating insurgency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The increased frequency of American strikes suggests that the US believes it must ramp up operations on both sides of the border as a stopgap. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the number of missile attacks in Pakistan has jumped from three in 2007 to 11 so far this year.

More drones were seen flying over Pakistani territory on Wednesday, according to The News, a Pakistani English-language daily. According to tribal area residents, US spy planes were seen patrolling over the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The angry tribals opened fire at the drones after which they flew back. US drones were also seen flying over skies of [tribal area] Kurram Agency.

Across the border, Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Kabul, the Financial Times reports.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, arrived in Afghanistan where violence has intensified this year as Taliban and al-Qaeda militants step up attacks on US, Afghan and Nato forces. The Pentagon plans to send more troops to Afghanistan next year to counter violence which is at its highest level since the 2001 invasion.

Growing US attacks on Pakistani soil have some observers keenly worried about the war widening into Pakistan. Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens quotes an article by Fraser Nelson in the London-based magazine The Spectator to argue that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is the new front in the war on terror.

At a recent dinner party in the British embassy in Kabul, one of the guests referred to "the Afghan-Pakistan war." The rest of the table fell silent. This is the truth that dare not speak its name. Even mentioning it in private in the Afghan capital's green zone is enough to solicit murmurs of disapproval. Few want to accept that the war is widening; that it now involves Pakistan, a country with an unstable government and nuclear weapons.

One immediate solution, observers argue, is the vital but difficult reform of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Reuters reports that Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, made the same call from Washington on Monday.

"It has to be done," [Boucher] said of revamping the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, widely known as the ISI.
Asked if he had seen signs of reform, he told Reuters: "No, I don't have anything in particular I would point to right now."
Despite its help in fighting al Qaeda, the ISI is viewed with deep suspicion by U.S. officials who believe it retains links to the Taliban and other militants blamed for supporting attacks on U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Growing concerns over Pakistan's ISI come as the US is scrambling to devise a new counterinsurgency policy along the troubled border. The diplomatic editor of the BBC makes the argument that part of that initiative includes dispatching Gen. David Petraeus to the region.

Gen. David Petraeus is winging his way from Iraq to Central Command (Centcom), where he will oversee US military operations throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He has to turn around the Nato mission in Afghanistan, where "the trends are in the wrong direction," he told [the BBC editor] during an interview last week.
The general says he is giving much thought to how strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan - and the two countries are symbiotically linked - needs to be revised.

Petraeus's surge tactic, which saw the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Iraq, is widely credited with turning around security in key provinces of Iraq. The BBC report questions whether Afghanistan might benefit from a similar strategy.

So the Afghan situation begs the question: does the country need its own "surge," extra troops to allow the creation of larger "safe areas"?
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