Zzzzz: AP reveals that U.S. rules of engagement authorize hot pursuit into Pakistan

Quite the bombshell given that (a) we already knew they’ve planned operations inside Pakistan, (b) they’ve already conducted operations inside Pakistan, and (c) Bush has openly admitted that he’d send troops into Pakistan to get Bin Laden if we had a bead on him.

Newly uncovered “rules of engagement” show the U.S. military gave elite units broad authority more than three years ago to pursue suspected terrorists into Pakistan, with no mention of telling the Pakistanis in advance…

One summary states that “Entry into PAK authorized for” the following reasons:

• “Hot pursuit” of al-Qaeda, Taliban and terrorist command-and-control targets “from AFG into Pakistan (must be continuous and uninterrupted).”

• If the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, approved direct action “against The Big 3,” listed as Osama bin Laden; his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri; and Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. The three are still believed to be hiding in the border region.

• If the Defense secretary approved such an incursion.

They can go 10 kilometers but no more, according to the ROE. And the Pakistanis?

E-mail exchanges between Ranger officers in the documents make no mention of a requirement to inform Pakistan in advance of strikes into that country.

However, one summary mentions a chain of required notifications, which resulted in Pakistan being apprised — apparently after the fact. One rule says “joint task force commander must inform CENTCOM immediately” and ensure the “Mil Liaison team” in Islamabad was notified.

Operations officers had a hotline to that liaison office, which would in turn inform Pakistani officials, according to a U.S. officer who served in the region and is knowledgable about operations within Afghanistan during that mid-2004 period. On some occasions, the officer said, Pakistanis would detect ground or air incursions and request explanations from the Americans, who would open inquiries.

This is why I didn’t quite get the uproar over Obama’s comments at the beginning of the month. It’s one thing if he’s talking about some grand invasion of Pakistan, but I don’t think he is. He’s talking about surgical strikes, which is nothing more than a continuation of current policy. Zzzzz.