US steps up missile strikes in Pakistan

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US steps up missile strikes in Pakistan

Post by Guest on Fri 28 Mar 2008, 4:58 pm

The United States has stepped up missile strikes against al-Qa'eda militants in Pakistan's tribal areas amid fears of decreased co-operation from the new government.

Washington wants to inflict as much damage as it can on al-Qa'eda's network before President Pervez Musharraf loses his grip on power, according to a report published today.

Unnamed US officials told The Washington Post that the strikes followed a "tacit understanding" with Mr Musharraf and the army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, that permits US strikes on foreign rebels but not against Pakistani Taliban.

In the past three months missiles fired by US Predator drones hit at least three sites used by suspected al-Qa'eda militants near the Afghan border.

The report quoted an official as describing the strikes as a "shake the tree" strategy designed to force Osama bin Laden and key lieutenants to move in ways that US intelligence can detect.

American concerns over Pakistani cooperation have risen since Mr Musharraf's allies lost elections last month.

The new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, told President George W Bush this week that a broader approach to the "war on terror" is necessary, including political solutions.

Mr Musharraf's pro-American policy has been unpopular with most Pakistanis and the use of US missile strikes has stoked anger over infringements of Pakistani sovereignty.

Two senior US diplomats, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, have concluded a controversial visit to Pakistan.

The timing of the visit, which was ostensibly aimed at forging links with the new government and to seek reassurance over its commitment to US strategy in region, prompted accusations of "American interference" in Pakistani affairs.

Mr Negroponte offered only tepid support for Mr Musharraf, who was only recently described by senior US officials as an "indispensable" ally, when asked to respond to accusations that his visit was intended to shore up support for the president.

He said Mr Musharraf's future status depended on the country's political process and the United States will "certainly respect whatever is decided in that regard."

Mr Negroponte added that America backed a "multi-faceted approach" to dealing with militants but added the he could not "understand" holding talks with "irreconcilable militants".

Officials from the party of a senior partner in the new coalition government, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said the American visit was "unwanted".

Mr Sharif told Mr Negroponte earlier this week that it was unacceptable for Pakistan, which has suffered a recent wave of suicide bombings blamed on militants, to become a "murder-house" for the sake of US policies.

Source: Telegraph - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/27/wmiss127.xml

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