We Definitely Are or Are Not Adding Ground Troops to Our Not-Very-Secret Secret War in Pakistan

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, lead public-affairs officer for NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, strongly denied today that the military is planning to send ground troops across the border to join the Central Intelligence Agency’s ongoing covert war in Pakistan . The Associated Press quoted Smith on the subject:

“There is absolutely no truth to reporting in The New York Times that U.S. forces are planning to conduct ground operations into Pakistan,” Smith said.

That is a very firm and persuasive denial, except for the fact that the Times did not report that “U.S. forces are planning” ground operations. What the Times wrote was that a proposal to send ground troops into Pakistan ” has not yet been approved ,” but that officials who support such a move believe they are closer than before to getting such approval.

Two anonymous “Pentagon officials” told the AP that

the idea has not risen through the chain of command to a point where it is a formal proposal and being given serious consideration.

But there are those two adjectives, “formal” and “serious,” and the potentially


use of “and” (what if ground troops are being seriously considered, but not in the form of a formal proposal?). Neither this nor Smith’s statement outright contradicts the Times’ premise. From the military’s point of view, a ground campaign is not a plan until the president approves and orders it. Till that happens, it’s just an abstract idea—the same way the C.I.A.’s drone airstrikes in Pakistan aren’t officially war. Or the raids on the ground that the Times describes as having already been conducted by C.I.A.-directed Afghan militias.

In a second raid, the Paktika militia attacked and destroyed a Taliban ammunition depot and returned to base, officials said. Both of the C.I.A.-backed raids were aimed at compounds only a few miles inside Pakistani territory.

But officially, there is still no war in Pakistan.