Posted by: tristar3research | February 23, 2009

Predators in Pakistan- GWOT?

Interesting that the plan to add 17,000 US troops in Afghanistan is not being characterized as a “surge”. Wonder why? Because they are a permanent escalation and the war is certainly spreading to Pakistan IMHO. According to JihadWatch:

Either way, such unilateral strikes appear to be the U.S.’s best chance at defeating al-Qaeda — specifically since Pakistan is either impotent or indifferent to the fact that jihadis are operating from its soil. “U.S. Predator strikes cripple al Qaeda in Pakistan?” by Sanjeev Miglani for Reuters,  America’s ramped-up Predator drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwest is starting to pay off, according to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence authorities quoted in a clutch of media reports. Eleven of the group’s top 20 “high value targets” along the Afghan border have been eliminated in the past six months Newsweek magazine reports, citing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The strikes by the unmanned drones circling high above Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas have been so pin-pointed that in one case a missile fired at a hideout in North Waziristan didn’t just hit the right house, but the room in which Mustafa al-Misri (”Mustafa the Egyptian”) and several other Qaeda operatives were holed up, the magazine reports, quoting a Taliban sub-commander. A U.S. counter-terrorism official goes so far as to suggest that the CIA-directed strikes have been so successful that it was possible to foresee a “complete al Qaeda defeat” in the mountainous region , according to this report in America’s National Public Radio.[…] That doesn’t suggest a waning of militant forces in the region. Perhaps the best conclusion you can draw is that the Predator strikes have had an impact on al Qaeda’s ability to strike at the United States, but the group is by no means decimated…

The “Shake the Tree” strategy is a direct result of the CIA’s recognition that the Taliban forces will not move and therefore get tracked unless they get targeted. Time was early in pegging the GWOT campaign as one of retribution for harboring Osama bin Ladin. In essence, Pakistan decided long ago not to pursue Taliban or Al Qaida operatives in the tribal territories.  Even the Washington Post got the memo…

Musharraf, who controls the country’s military forces, has long approved U.S. military strikes on his own. But senior officials in Pakistan’s leading parties are now warning that such unilateral attacks — including the Predator strikes launched from bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad in Pakistan — could be curtailed. “We have always said that as for strikes, that is for Pakistani forces to do and for the Pakistani government to decide. . . . We do not envision a situation in which foreigners will enter Pakistan and chase targets,” said Farhatullah Babar, a top spokesman for the Pakistan People’s Party, whose leader, Yousaf Raza Gillani, is the new prime minister. “This war on terror is our war.” Leaders of Gillani’s party say they are interested in starting talks with local Taliban leaders and giving a political voice to the millions who live in Pakistan’s tribal areas. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher heard the message directly yesterday from tribal elders in the village of Landi Kotal in the Khyber area. “We told the visiting U.S. guests that the traditional jirga [tribal decision-making] system should be made effective to eliminate the causes of militancy and other problems from the tribal areas,” said Malik Darya Khan, an elder. “We also told them that we have some disgruntled brothers” — an indirect reference to local Taliban and militants –– who should be pulled into the mainstream through negotiations and dialogue, he said. “The tribal turmoil can be resolved only through negotiations, not with military operations,” Khan added.

Ryan Mauro at WorldThreats.com points out that US drones are operating from inside Pakistan. So another FP challenge looms:

Money quote from then-CIA director Michael Hayden in November 2008:

“Let me be very clear. Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it’s command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the FATA [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas].”

Under the Bush Administration, it is now widely known, a secret agreement was reached with Pakistan to allow for unmanned aerial vehicles to operate from a base on their territory to strike Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist targets. The Pakistani government would loudly protest the acts to placate the more radical elements on their society. Some on the right have criticized President Obama’s stated policy of bombing terrorists in Pakistani territory if their government would not act, but now we know that there is little difference between the Pakistan policy of these two administrations.

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