Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Working without a net in Pakistan

Captain Ed calls it waling on a tight-rope, and he is quite correct. See, some might not be aware that we have been hitting targets in Pakistan in the past few weeks, but we have been. And while Musharraf doesn't want us targeting the Taliban, nothing is stopping us from shaking the tree a little to take out the foreign fighters:

The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country, according to U.S. officials.

Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf, who has generally supported the U.S. strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead, and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda's network now, the officials said.

Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft are known to have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives. The moves followed a tacit understanding with Musharraf and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani that allows U.S. strikes on foreign fighters operating in Pakistan, but not against the Pakistani Taliban, the officials said.

About 45 Arab, Afghan and other foreign fighters have been killed in the attacks, all near the Afghan border, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. The goal was partly to jar loose information on senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, by forcing them to move in ways that U.S. intelligence analysts can detect. Local sources are providing better information to guide the strikes, the officials said. ...

The administration's intensified effort against al-Qaeda also has benefited from shifting loyalties among residents of the border region. Some tribal and religious leaders who embraced foreign al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters as they fled from Afghanistan in 2001 now see them as troublemakers and are providing timely intelligence about their movements and hideouts, according to former U.S. officials and Pakistan experts.

"They see traffic coming and going from the fortress homes of tribal leaders associated with foreign elements, and they pass the information along," said Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani journalist in Washington and the author of a book on Pakistan's army. "Some quick surveillance is done, and then someone pops a couple of hundred-pound bombs at the house."

For some, mainly in Pakistan, they'd prefer these strikes were curtailed a bit. The tribal leaders have told the Pakistani government to leave the Taliban alone, and to negotiate with them to bring them into the political process. I don't know if that's going to work, but it might be worth the effort if it keeps them from carrying out suicide bombings and other acts of violence against Pakistan. And why ramp this up now?

Because Musharraf's days are numbered in Pakistan. He doesn't have a lot of friends left in Pakistan, and he still wants to work cooperatively with DC. In fact, the WaPo even makes mention of the fact that Musharraf probably has more friends in the Beltway than he does at home. More the likely, they're right.

And the military agrees that while this might not net them a big fish like Zawahiri or bin Laden (who we still believe is dead), it'll knock loose a few others that we've been looking for. The strike last month did nail the AQ #3 guy. So to say these Predator ops are worthless isn't true. They are helping to take out the bad guys.

Publius II


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