I know a little something about this... And I want to do this post justice, without violating my non-disclosure agreement or anything that could get my clearance pulled. It ain't one of those "I'd have to kill ya" things, but close.
This story comes from Richard Engel at the WorldBlog over at the MSNBC (I won't go into how they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Barack Channel right now) and he is covering a little piece of our "secret" war in Pakistan.
He makes a good and salient point...
They (the commanders) say the cross-border incursions are necessary because the Pakistani government has failed to contain Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Pakistan’s tribal region – 10,000 square miles along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan – has become a no-man’s-land where radical militants train, equip, rest, regroup, refit, plan and launch attacks on American troops in Afghanistan and on the Pakistani government in Islamabad.
I have been out to the border for an operation or two and it is an impossible place to work. Mountains, altitude, tribesman, goats, you name it. Lots of places to hide things and people, and too much ground to cover sometimes. These commanders are right; these raids have to be mounted and the reason is that not only is the government of Pakistan not able to control the border; their troops are, in many cases, actively assisting these Taliban and Al-Qaeda actors in their operations.
The elephant in the room is that the Pakistanis are not even remotely in control of the tribal areas that we are conducting the raids into. In fact, Richard Engel points out;
The mountain town of Swat was once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, a resort where Pakistanis vacationed to escape the bustle of Islamabad and Karachi. Today it is a battle zone.
According to a Pakistani military spokesman, in Swat Valley Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have burned down 111 girls schools, destroyed 37 government buildings, blown up 29 bridges, incapacitated the main power plant and cut the gas supply. Villagers are often completely without power. Schools that haven’t been burned down don’t operate.
Seems to me that this situation cries out for both a "white" SOF response, as well as a "Black" response option. Because if you let your tree grow over my property, and ignore it completely; I will trim it for you.
I know that my team was prepared, should it have been necessary, to pursue the "kinetic" fight into the tribal hinterlands. I do know that in one case, when some of our guys were receiving rocket and mortar fire from over the border, that we fired counter-battery on their positions.
It does seem to me that there is a bit of hand wringing about the whole "what do we do now?"
It’s difficult to fight a secret war, especially here. The Special Operations Forces must fight in the mountains, far away from their bases in Afghanistan, against a battle-hardened enemy funded by the opium trade.
Since U.S. troops must operate covertly, they also can’t afford to lose a single man, fearing the enemy would drag his body Somalia-style through the streets, exposing their presence. The Americans also can’t leave anything behind, no equipment, no bags of MREs, no tracks, no trace they were there fighting America’s newest, most secret war.
The point that I think might be lost on Richard is that this is what these guys do. They go out and complete super dangerous missions in the dead of night with high tech weapons and absolutely zero embedded reporters so that they can steal away into the night with only ghost stories and rumors and a ton of brass casings as evidence of their appearance.
And they do it so that our enemies know that we will chase them to the Gates of Hell to hold them to account ten-fold for the evil they have visited upon us
All so we can padlock the gate after we chase them through it.