US commanders want to take anti-terror war to Pakistan

April 20th, 2008 - 8:51 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

New York, April 20 (IANS) US commanders in Afghanistan have urged a widening of the war to include attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the bordering tribal areas, but their requests have been rebuffed for now, according to US officials. Bush administration officials fear that attacking Pakistani radicals may annoy Pakistan’s new government, which is negotiating with the militants, and destabilize an already fragile security situation, the New York Times reported Sunday.

US commanders would rather have Pakistani forces themselves attack the militants, but Pakistani operations in the tribal areas have recently been slowed to avoid upsetting the negotiations.

Islamabad has given the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) limited authority to kill Arab and other foreign militants in the tribal areas, using remotely piloted aircraft. The US operations against indigenous Pakistani militants are, however, greatly restricted.

The US intelligence officials believe that the threat emanating from the tribal areas is growing, and that Pakistani militant networks are allying with Al Qaeda in plotting attacks against the US and allied troops in Afghanistan, and in helping foreign operatives plan attacks on targets in the West.

The US military’s proposals include options for limited cross-border artillery strikes into Pakistan, missile attacks by Predator unmanned aircraft or raids by small teams of CIA paramilitary forces or Special Operations Forces, the Times said.

A list of potential targets was discussed with the US ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, the officials said.

Attacking Pakistani militants was a delicate issue because some militant leaders were believed to be still on the payroll of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus.

Among the groups thought to be targets was one commanded by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, and the network led by Baitullah Mehsud, believed to have been behind Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the Times said.

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