Pakistan: Uproar grows over first ground assault by US troops
Pakistani military officials fear American intervention in the tribal areas could spark a rebellion, derailing counterterrorism operations.
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Some officials and analysts say that the raid into Angoor Adda may signal a more aggressive American strategy towards militants in Pakistan's tribal areas and their cross-border raids into Afghanistan, reports The New York Times.Skip to next paragraph
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The commando raid by the American forces signaled what top American officials said could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President Bush's war council.
It also seemed likely to complicate relations with Pakistan, where the already unstable political situation worsened after the resignation last month of President Pervez Musharraf, a longtime American ally.
"What you're seeing is perhaps a stepping up of activity against militants in sanctuaries in the tribal areas that pose a direct threat to United States forces and Afghan forces in Afghanistan," said one senior American official, who had been briefed on the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the mission's political sensitivity. "There's potential to see more."
But with political uncertainty and the rising tide of violence, some fear that an aggressive American posture could do more harm than good. Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), Pakistani Gen. Athar Abbas said he feared American attacks could provoke a tribal rebellion against Islamabad, which would completely derail counterterrorism operations in the region.
He said the attack would undermine Pakistan's efforts to isolate Islamic extremists and could threaten NATO's major supply lines, which snake from Pakistan's Indian Ocean port of Karachi through the tribal region into Afghanistan.
"We cannot afford a huge uprising at the level of tribe," Abbas told AP. "That would be completely counterproductive and doesn't help the cause of fighting terrorism in the area."
Bloodshed in the tribal areas has become increasingly common in recent weeks. Until a cease-fire was announced last weekend, the Pakistani Army had killed hundreds of militants in the Bajaur tribal region. In a separate incident on Wednesday, Pakistani forces killed 30 militants in a gun battle in the Swat Valley, another site of fierce military-militant clashes, reports Agence France-Presse. On Thursday morning, 25 police recruits were kidnapped by Taliban forces in the tribal areas while on their way to a training center.