White House no comment on suspect Pakistan strikes
1 hour ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) " The White House Friday refused to comment on Pakistani reports that suspected US drones had fired missiles into presumed militant dens in the northwest tribal belt.
"As you know I am not going to comment on those matters," spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters despite being repeatedly pressed to discuss the reports.
Pakistani security officials said the missiles fired onto presumed militant dens killed 15 people, including three children and at least four civilians.
The strikes, which pulverised two houses in the northwest tribal belt, were reportedly the first since US President Barack Obama took office and one day after he appointed a brand new special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Suspected U.S. Missile Strikes Kill at Least 20 in Pakistan
Attacks in Northwest Border Province Are First Since Obama's Inauguration
By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 23, 2009; 1:49 PM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 23 -- At least 20 people were killed in northwest Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan on Friday in two suspected U.S. missile strikes, marking the first such attack in Pakistan's tribal areas since President Obama's inauguration.
A U.S. Predator drone fired three missiles at a compound about two miles from the town of Mirali in the tribal area of North Waziristan about 5:15 p.m., according to a Pakistani security official and local residents. The precision strike leveled a compound, which was owned by local tribal elder Khalil Malik, killing at least 10 suspected militants, including five foreign nationals, according to the Pakistani security official. The site of the attack is about 30 miles east of the Afghan border.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Malik was killed along with his brother and nephew. Authorities in North Waziristan, however, said they have been so far unable to identify any of those killed because militants immediately cordoned off the area. "I suspect a high-value target may be among the dead," the Pakistani security official said.
As the usual mob will now be saying " stop the killing of the innocent's " kinda like they said when those barbaric Palestinians --- oops ! Jews were --killing the innocents.
On another thread someone said that it was in the news analysis that the military command over there had the power to decide these strikes on their own--that there was no evidence the decision came from Washington...
PESHAWAR, Pakistan " Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing " or a beheading.
Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees " and those they plan to kill.
Unlike the fringe tribal areas, Swat, a Delaware-size chunk of territory with 1.3 million residents and a rich cultural history, is part of Pakistan proper, within reach of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the capital.
After more than a year of fighting, virtually all of it is now under Taliban control, marking the militants’ farthest advance eastward into Pakistan’s so-called settled areas, residents and government officials from the region say.
With the increasing consolidation of their power, the Taliban have taken a sizable bite out of the nation. And they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam with cruelty, bringing public beheadings, assassinations, social and cultural repression and persecution of women to what was once an independent, relatively secular region, dotted with ski resorts and fruit orchards and known for its dancing girls.
Last year, 70 police officers were beheaded, shot or otherwise slain in Swat, and 150 wounded, said Malik Naveed Khan, the police inspector general for the North-West Frontier Province.
The police have become so afraid that many officers have put advertisements in newspapers renouncing their jobs so the Taliban will not kill them.
In the view of analysts, the growing nightmare in Swat is a capsule of the country’s problems: an ineffectual and unresponsive civilian government, coupled with military and security forces that, in the view of furious residents, have willingly allowed the militants to spread terror deep into Pakistan.
The crisis has become a critical test for the government of the civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, and for a security apparatus whose loyalties, many Pakistanis say, remain in question.
Seeking to deflect blame, Mr. Zardari’s government recently criticized “earlier halfhearted attempts at rooting out extremists from the area” and vowed to fight militants “who are ruthlessly murdering and maiming our citizens.”
But as pressure grows, he has also said in recent days that the government would be willing to talk with militants who accept its authority. Such negotiations would carry serious risks: security officials say a brief peace deal in Swat last spring was a spectacular failure that allowed militants to tighten their hold and take revenge on people who had supported the military.
Well I want to say I'm very saddened & disappointed that the new US government has chosen to endorse this course of action. This has received almost no coverage in the media in my country (Australia) & I'd be very interested to know more ... like why, who (in particular) was targetted, details of casualties, etc ...
U.S. missile strikes take heavy toll on Al Qaeda, officials say
Predator drone attacks in northwest Pakistan have increased sharply since Bush last year stopped seeking Pakistan's permission. Obama may keep pace as officials speak of confusion in Al Qaeda ranks.
March 22, 2009
An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say.
The pace of the Predator attacks has accelerated dramatically since August, when the Bush administration made a previously undisclosed decision to abandon the practice of obtaining permission from the Pakistani government before launching missiles from the unmanned aircraft.
Since Aug. 31, the CIA has carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 reported attacks in 2006 and 2007 combined, in what has become the CIA's most expansive targeted killing program since the Vietnam War.
Because of its success, the Obama administration is set to continue the accelerated campaign despite civilian casualties that have fueled anti-U.S. sentiment and prompted protests from the Pakistani government.
"This last year has been a very hard year for them," a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said of Al Qaeda militants, whose operations he tracks in northwest Pakistan. "They're losing a bunch of their better leaders. But more importantly, at this point they're wondering who's next."
U.S. intelligence officials said they see clear signs that the Predator strikes are sowing distrust within Al Qaeda. "They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible" for security breaches, the senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said, discussing intelligence assessments on condition of anonymity. "People are showing up dead or disappearing." [..]
The stepped-up Predator campaign has killed at least nine senior Al Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of the terrorist network since 2001.
Among those killed since August are Rashid Rauf, the suspected mastermind of an alleged 2006 transatlantic airliner plot; Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts; Khalid Habib, an operations chief allegedly involved in plots against the West; and Usama al-Kini, who allegedly helped orchestrate the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in the capital, Islamabad. [..]
[O]fficials said that the surge in strikes has less to do with expanded capabilities than with the decision to skip Pakistani approval. "We had the data all along," said a former CIA official who oversaw Predator operations in Pakistan. "Finally we took off the gloves."
The Bush administration's decision to expand the Predator program was driven by growing alarm over Al Qaeda's resurgence in Pakistan's tribal belt.
A 2006 peace agreement between Islamabad and border tribes had allowed the network to shore up its finances, resume training operatives and reestablish connections with satellite groups.