WASHINGTON: American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months urged a widening of the war that could include American attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the tribal areas inside Pakistan, according to United States officials. The requests have been rebuffed for now, the officials said, after deliberations in Washington among senior Bush administration officials who fear that attacking Pakistani radicals may anger Pakistan’s new government, which is negotiating with the militants, and destabilize an already fragile security situation.
American commanders would prefer that Pakistani forces attack the militants, but Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas have slowed recently to avoid upsetting the negotiations. Pakistan’s government has given the Central Intelligence Agency limited authority to kill Arab and other foreign operatives in the tribal areas, using remotely piloted Predator aircraft.
American intelligence officials say that the threat emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas is growing, and that Pakistani networks there have taken on an increasingly important role as an ally of Al Qaeda in plotting attacks against American and other allied troops in Afghanistan, and in helping foreign operatives plan attacks on targets in the West. The officials said the American military’s proposals included options for limited cross-border artillery strikes into Pakistan, missile attacks by Predator aircraft or raids by small teams of C.I.A. paramilitary forces or Special Operations forces.
A Pentagon adviser said military intelligence officers in Afghanistan had drawn up the detailed list of potential targets that was discussed with Ambassador Patterson. It is unclear which senior officials in Washington were involved in the debate over whether to authorize attacks.
Intelligence officials say they believe that leaders of the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have in recent months forged closer ties to the cadre of Qaeda leaders in the tribal areas. Officials have said that they thought the leader of the Taliban there, Jalaluddin Haqqani, may have died last year. But Mr. Haqqani recently released a video denying those reports and made reference to a military attack in eastern Afghanistan that happened this March. Mr. Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, has also made aggressive efforts to recruit foreign fighters from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Central Asia.-SANA