At least 20 were killed July 12 in fighting between Pakistani security forces and Taliban insurgents following an attack on an army convoy near Zargari, North-West Frontier Province. The violence came during an unannounced, one-day visit to Pakistan by Adm. Michael Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. Mullen met with President Pervez Musharraf and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. (WP, July 13) Foreign Minister Mahmoud Qureshi said he has ruled out allowing US military personnel to hunt for Osama bin Laden on Pakistan’s territory. “People will not accept it,” Qureshi said. “Questions of sovereignty come in.” (AlJazeera, July 13)
Qureshi was referencing claims in the New York Times June 30 that late last year “Bush administration officials drafted a secret plan to make it easier for the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.”
Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.
The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.
But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.
Then there’s that tricky question of Pakistan’s sovereignty:
An early arrangement that allowed American commandos to join Pakistani units on raids inside the tribal areas was halted in 2003 after protests in Pakistan. Another combat mission that came within hours of being launched in 2005 was scuttled because some C.I.A. officials in Pakistan questioned the accuracy of the intelligence, and because aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld believed that the mission force had become too large.
The revelations come amid fast-escalating tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After a car bomb killed 40 at Indian embassy in Kabul July 7, the Afghan Interior Ministry hinted that the attack was carried out with help from Pakistan’s intelligence service, saying that “terrorists have carried out this attack in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi said his government condemned the attack and terrorism in all forms. (AP, July 7)