The New York Times front-pages a story Tuesday on a 2007 attack on U.S. troops — in which an Army major was killed — as a deliberate blow designed to show the Americans that the Pakistani military can’t be pushed around. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire, given Adm. Mike Mullen’s declaration last week — long overdue, according to several Pentagon officials — that the Pakistani military and its intelligence service have been working finger-on-trigger with militant groups attacking the U.S. embassy in Kabul and other key U.S. targets inside Afghanistan.
The story is important, filled with a dramatic account of how one or more Pakistani troops essentially ambushed a U.S.-Afghan delegation following a meeting over a disputed bordered crossing on the AfPak frontier. But the perpetrators remain murky, as its penultimate paragraph (who reads that far?) makes clear:
Both [U.S.] Generals [Ron] Helmly and [Daniel] McNeill accept as plausible that a lone member of the Frontier Corps, whether connected to the militants or pressured by them, was responsible, but they also said it was possible that a larger group of soldiers was acting in concert. The two generals said there was no evidence that senior Pakistani officials had planned the attack.
Regardless, the Pentagon treated it as just another KIA in the flow of announcements it has been issuing for years. On May 15, 2007, it said, in a standard press release, without any fanfare suggesting the casualty may have been out of the ordinary, that “Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr., 36, of Moravian Falls, N.C., died May 14 in Teri Mengel, Pakistan, of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire.” There you have it: more than four years before Mullen implied it last week on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon was calling Pakistan the enemy.