War 'drones' on in Pakistan

Wall Street Journal:

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials are drawing up a fresh list of terrorist targets for Predator drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, part of a U.S. review of the drone program, according to officials involved.

Pakistani officials are seeking to broaden the scope of the program to target extremists who have carried out attacks against Pakistanis, a move they say could win domestic support. The Obama administration is weighing the effectiveness of the program against the risk that its unpopularity weakens an important ally.

Underlining the fragility of the situation, the U.S. believes Pakistan's top intelligence agency is directly supporting the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan, even as the U.S. targets those groups, says a person close to the deliberations.

The Central Intelligence Agency's drone program is important to Washington because areas of Pakistan remain a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration is reviewing how it uses missile strikes to target militants on the border, according to national-security officials, as part of a broad review of its strategy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The administration considers the program a success, and the program isn't expected to be significantly curtailed. But officials familiar with the review say it could change the pace and size of the program, and make some technical refinements in an effort to hit targets faster. The review seeks to determine under what circumstances drones should be used, the officials say.

...

Meanwhile, U.S. officials say they are continuing to find evidence Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency continues to support militant groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, and groups run by Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. "There is definite unhappiness that the U.S. is still finding direct links between the ISI and those three organizations, which are operating in Afghanistan," said a person working on the issue. Mr. Haqqani's network has been targeted in drone attacks, as has Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the person said.

Pakistani officials say they only maintain contacts with some elements of the Taliban and no longer directly support the militants.

U.S. officials say that telecommunications intercepts showed ISI officials were in contact with Mr. Haqqani's operatives when they bombed the Indian embassy in Kabul last July.

The Predators are seen to have hurt al Qaeda's leadership in the near term. U.S. and Pakistani officials say more than half of an initial list of 20 high-value targets have been either killed or captured over the past six months. But there remains a fear among U.S. allies that the strikes could fuel a political backlash in Pakistan that in the long run aids Islamist extremists.

...

Much of the media continues to ignore the only polling done on the strikes that show that a majority of the people in the effected area support the strikes. One of the clues that should be more obvious than a poll is the lack of response from the people in the effected area. If they thought the strikes were killing innocents, there would be tantrum throwing demonstrations in that part of Pakistan. Instead what you normally see is the Taliban quickly isolating the area of the strike to pull out their or al Qaeda's dead.

The Hellfire attacks are part of a sophisticated precision raiding strategy that effect a neat compromise between Pakistani resistance to our putting boots on the ground in their country and our need to attack the enemy in his sanctuary areas. The purpose of raiding strategies is to weaken the enemy and make him less able to attack you. It appears to me that this plan is working in that regard.

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