‘US commandos poised for hot pursuit into Pakistan’July 10th, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, July 10 (IANS) US commandos are poised to stage hot pursuit raids into Pakistan’s restive northwest to neutralize Taliban and Al Qaeda cadres operating from the region, even as Washington is sending more air power to Afghanistan, media reports Thursday said. “Three US lawmakers - Gene Green, Michael McCaul and Henry Cuellar - said the plans for stepped-up US military operations were in response to Pakistan’s failure to disrupt terrorist training camps and cross-border attacks from FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas),” Dawn reported in a dispatch from Washington.
US military officials told reporters in Washington Tuesday that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and its escort vessels were moved out of the Gulf to the Arabian Sea, shortening the time that the carrier’s planes would take to support operations in Afghanistan.
The officials said that since violence is down dramatically in Iraq, US military planners believe it was possible to focus some air capabilities away from Iraq and more on Afghanistan.
The three lawmakers told the Houston Chronicle in separate interviews that they were briefed about the US plan to stage hot pursuit raids into FATA during a recent trip to Afghanistan.
They said the Bush administration was recalibrating US operations in the region because of a 40 percent increase in violent attacks against US-led forces in Afghanistan that had pushed US casualties in June beyond the monthly toll in Iraq.
The US has about 34,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the number expected to rise to nearly 40,000 with reinforcements next year.
The Congressmen said they devoted much of their separate meetings with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani last week to urge additional action against militants in the tribal territories.
But, they said, Pakistani officials rejected resumption of the joint US-Pakistani operations that ended in 2003, urging instead for additional US military assistance and intelligence cooperation to target seven or eight terrorist leaders operating in the tribal areas.
Pakistan’s ineffective campaign makes it “imperative that US forces be allowed to pursue the Taliban and Al Qaeda in tribal areas inside Pakistan,” McCaul told the Houston Chronicle.
“If we don’t do something now, they’re going to strike us again (in the US) and it is going to be out of this (FATA) area,” he added.
According to Cuellar, “either Pakistan does more or we will be taking things into our own hands.
“If our troops are fired on, there will be hot pursuit into that territory,” he maintained.
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