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US crossing more borders in terror war?

The alleged incursions into Syria, and previously into Pakistan, could be risky.

By Gordon LuboldStaff writer / October 28, 2008

Scott Wallace – Staff

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Washington

In the name of protecting its forces in Afghanistan and now Iraq, the United States appears to have begun to step up a bold gamble: conducting raids in countries it believes are not doing enough to fight extremist militants.

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But taking such actions in Pakistan and now Syria may involve high diplomatic risks and offer limited military gain, say experts outside the military. "It could be morally justifiable, legally justifiable, and strategically a mistake," says Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

For the past few months, there have been reports of US airstrikes inside Pakistan as violence increased in neighboring Afghanistan. Over the weekend, the US reportedly conducted a strike inside Syria's shared border with Iraq.

Syrian officials say the US sent four US helicopters across the Syrian-Iraqi border on Sunday to carry out a raid against suspected militants. Damascus claimed that the attack, reportedly carried out by US Special Forces units, resulted in the killing of eight civilians near the border town of Abu Kamal.

Syrian officials described the incident as a violation of international law and a "terrible crime."

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed American military official who confirmed the operation, saying, "We are taking matters into our own hands."

As is typical in these cases, no US official would comment on the record on the alleged attack, including US Special Operations Command and Marine officials in Anbar Province in Iraq. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, refused to comment on the incident Monday.

Damascus and London called off a joint press conference scheduled for Monday in an apparent response to the alleged incident, the Times of London reported.

The US has reportedly begun cross-border attacks in Pakistan in recent months in pursuit of militants seeking haven in the border tribal areas. The New York Times reported last month that President Bush signed an accord in July allowing US Special Operations forces to conduct ground assaults inside Pakistan's borders. No American officials confirm the existence of such an accord.

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