‘Bush gave secret orders allowing raids in Pakistan’ (Lead)

September 11th, 2008 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanNew York, Sep 11 (IANS) President George W. Bush has secretly approved orders that allowed US military special forces, for the first time, to mount ground assaults inside Pakistan territory against terrorists and Afghan insurgents, without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, The New York Times reported Thursday.The orders were given in July, the newspaper said, citing senior US officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” the Times said.

The paper quoted a senior US official as saying: “The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable. We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

US officials say they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for prior permission.

The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as the view of the Bush administration that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants.

They also show lingering US distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some US operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

The new orders go much beyond the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) practice of several years of firing missiles at militants inside Pakistan from remotely piloted aircraft.

The new orders have not gone down well with the Pakistan authorities. A top army officer of Pakistan said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate US incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs”.

However, one US official told the Times that the Pakistani government had privately given consent in general to limited ground assaults by US Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission. The official did not clarify which specific members of the Pakistani government gave their assent.

Details about last week’s commando operation now known indicate that the mission was more intrusive than had previously been known.

Quoting two unnamed US officials, The Times said the operation involved more than two dozen members of the Navy Seals who spent several hours on the ground and killed about two dozen suspected Al Qaeda fighters. Supported by a gunship, the troops were whisked away by helicopters after completing the mission.

The Pakistani government has, however, insisted the said raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

“Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion,” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, during a speech last Friday. “In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.”

Instead of ground operations, some Pakistani officials have suggested the use of the CIA’s Predator aircraft to target Al Qaeda operatives from the sky. On Monday, a Predator strike in North Waziristan killed several Arab Al Qaeda operatives.

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