Counter-Terrorism: Pakistan Feels the Heat

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January 18, 2007: The U.S. is lighting a fire under Pakistan to do something about the growing amount of al Qaeda activity in Pakistan. These matters are being discussed publicly, and the Pakistanis are not happy. Pakistan has done a lot of damage to al Qaeda in the last four years. As a result, al Qaeda has quit trying to kill senior Pakistani officials, and is instead trying to establish a new base in the tribal areas along the Afghan border. The Islamic terrorists have some sanctuary in the area, but nothing is perfect. The Pakistanis have helicopter gunships and warplanes that are ready to hit any al Qaeda camp or safe house they can get a positive identification on. American UAVs, armed with Hellfire missiles, have also come across the border to help out. But al Qaeda knows that the tribesmen can be angered if too many women and children are killed in these raids. This complicates the targeting process. Al Qaeda try to stay in compounds that contain plenty of women and children. But the tribal custom is to keep the women and children separate from the men, most of the time. So when hitting these targets, knowledge of local customs, and timing, are important. 

But the United States is unconvinced that the Pakistani approach (informers with satellite phones, and helicopter gunships on call) will do the job. As U.S. officials have been openly pointing out, there are areas along the border where pro-Taliban tribal militia are the law, not the Pakistani army or police. Apparently diplomacy has not been working, or the Pakistanis refuse to go after the tribes. Now the Americans are being pushy. Which may be unpopular in this part of the world, but it is not ineffective.


 

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