C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan

The NY Times reports that as part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft  thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.

Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.

Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan.Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.

As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled  warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.

Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.

But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to discuss the  current European terrorism intelligence with her European counterparts  at a U.N. aviation security meeting this week in Montreal. “We are in  constant contact with our colleagues abroad,” she told a Senate panel  last week. “We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set  of groups and a more diverse set of threats. That activity, much of  which is Islamist in nature, is directed at the West generally.”

One Response

  1. […] began helping its European allies track down the organisers in Pakistan, which explains the recent increase in drone attacks in the country. A number of the attacks were designed to target the leaders of the plot and several […]

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