Jan 31 2008

Missile Strike In Pakistan Was Aimed At al-Qaeda

Here is an update from Reuters regarding two recent posts of mine (here and here) on a precision missile strike reported in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border:

A suspected U.S. missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region this week had targeted second or third tier al Qaeda leaders, according to residents in the tribal area.

An intelligence official, however, told Reuters on Thursday that based on information gleaned from tribal contacts there were seven Arabs and six Central Asians killed.

He said the attack was believed to have been carried out by a pilotless U.S. Predator aircraft flown across the nearby border with Afghanistan.

Tribesmen in the area said a deputy of Abu Laith al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader, had been staying there and was among the dead, according to the intelligence official.

“The latest information we have from the area is that a second-in-command to al Libi was among those killed,” he said.

I have noted many times (here for example) that there are US Special Forces operating in Pakistan in a training role, but who can be authorized by the Pakistan military to take on certain high valued targets. And I doubt it is a coincidence into the area of Afghanistan which is just across the border from this region of Pakistan.

Another interesting article I found highlights the completion of a US ‘fort’ in Afghanistan, again just across the border from the FATA and NWFP regions, that is supposed to be used for operations against al-Qaeda:

Another piece of the United States’ regional jigsaw is in place with the completion of a military base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, just three kilometers from Bajaur Agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Pakistani intelligence quarters have confirmed to Asia Times Online that the base, on a mountain top in Ghakhi Pass overlooking Pakistan, is now operational.

The new US base is expected to serve as the center of clandestine special forces’ operations in the border region. The George W Bush administration is itching to take more positive action – including inside Pakistan – against Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda militants increasingly active in the area and bolstering the insurgency in Afghanistan.

A senior Pakistani security official explained to Asia Times Online, “American special forces have carried out clandestine operations in the past, and Pakistan was not informed. The Taliban and al-Qaeda also did not realize what was happening with the quick-as-a-wink hit-and-run operations in the tribal areas. Pakistani intelligence only knew of the operations after they happened. They included the killing of high-value Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders and high-value arrests,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“However, with the new Kunar base, American special forces will carry out extended operations, which means a limited war against Taliban and al-Qaeda assets in the tribal areas. These clandestine operations can be done with or without Pakistan’s consent.”

What is infuriating is this ‘clandestine base’ is being reported in the news, with its location specified. Someone should be fired for this one. But the it could be possible the US doesn’t care if al-Qaeda knows it is the region (and it would be hard to miss US soldiers in the neighborhood). Of course, there is a hint some of this is a mind game:

In response, the initial militant action is expected to be the relocation of its key leadership away from the immediate danger area.

Do they stay put for targeting or move and disclose their positions? Interesting chess match. I find it interesting that we have been taking action and are preparing for a big effort to cleanse the region of al-Qaeda and its Taliban sympathizers. Now that much of al-Qaeda has retreated to the area of their birthplace they present a perfect target.

Anyway, back to the missile strike. It turns out most of those killed were foreigners:

A suspected US missile strike that killed around 13 foreign militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region this week has targeted Al Qaida leaders, according to residents in the tribal area.

An intelligence official said on Thursday that there were seven Arabs and six Central Asians killed.

Six chances we got Bin Laden? I have my doubts Bin Laden is sitting out in the rural areas were he would be exposed and stick out like a sore thumb. It is easier to hide in the cities. But it is possible and we can still hope we find him and bring him to justice.

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