US missile hits in western Pakistan show continued Bush policy (Repeating)

January 25th, 2009 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 25 (IANS) As US missiles continued to target suspected Al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan just east of the Afghan border, analysts saw it as signalling that one key element of the Bush administration’s war on terror remains unchanged.Two drone-fired US strikes Friday-the first since President Barack Obama took office-showed that the new US administration would continue the Bush policy of aggressively attacking militant targets in Pakistan from the air, Bruce Riedel, a specialist on Al Qaeda at the Brookings Institution said.

“Obama was very clear in the campaign that going after Al Qaeda was a top priority,” Riedel was quoted as saying by the Washington Times Saturday.

He noted that earlier this week, the Pakistanis arrested a Saudi Al Qaeda operative named Taifi suspected in organising attacks on NATO convoys bound from Pakistan to Afghanistan and possibly the 2005 bombings on London buses and subways that killed more than 50 people.

“The drone operations and the arrest show the battle to defeat AQ (Al Qaeda) continues,” Riedel said. “What Obama is changing is the counterproductive parts of Bush’s war on terrorism, like torture and Guantanamo, that hurt the fight against AQ.”

US air strikes over the past six months have killed eight Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan’s tribal region, according to the Times. Citing Pakistani military sources it said the US strikes have become increasingly accurate, avoiding civilian casualties that have hurt US-Pakistani relations.

Among those killed was Rashid Rauf, accused of planning to send terrorist operatives with homemade liquid bombs onto several airliners flying from Britain to the US and Canada in 2006, the US daily said citing US and Pakistani officials.

Also killed was Usama al-Kini, who was accused of planning the Sep 20 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed 53 people, including two members of the US military.

The latest attacks came a day after Obama appointed veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, signalling recognition that stabilizing Afghanistan requires a comprehensive strategy.

The Times also cited an unnamed “Afghan source, familiar with US operations in the region” as saying that fighting has intensified but that the Taliban has been gaining strength along the eastern and southern border of Afghanistan.

The individual, who resides in the eastern region of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border and spoke to The Times by phone, said that militants are still continuing to use Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas for training and refuge.

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