Pakistan making use of US precision weapons against Taliban

NY Times:

Pakistan’s Air Force is improving its ability to pinpoint and attack militant targets with precision weapons, adding a new dimension to the country’s fight against violent extremism, according to Pakistani military officials and independent analysts.

The Pakistani military has moved away from the scorched-earth artillery and air tactics used last year against insurgents in the Bajaur tribal agency. In recent months, the air force has shifted from using Google Earth to more sophisticated images from spy planes and other surveillance aircraft, and has increased its use of laser-guided bombs.

The changes reflect an effort by the Pakistani military to conduct its operations in a way that will not further alienate the population by increasing civilian casualties and destroying property. But they are also dictated by necessity as the military takes its campaign into areas where it is reluctant to commit ground troops, particularly in the rugged terrain of Waziristan, where it had suffered heavy losses.

Military analysts say the airstrikes alone, no matter how precise, cannot ultimately substitute for ground forces or for better counterinsurgency training, something Pakistan has been reluctant to accept from the United States. But they say the airstrikes have become a valuable tool for Pakistan in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in sometimes inaccessible terrain.

Since May, F-16 multirole fighter jets, the Pakistani military’s aerial workhorse, have flown more than 300 combat missions against militants in the Swat Valley and more than 100 missions in South Waziristan, attacking mountain hide-outs, training centers and ammunition depots, Pakistani military officials said.

In conjunction with infantry fire, artillery barrages and helicopter gunship attacks, military officials say, the air combat missions have reinvigorated the military campaign in Swat and put increasing pressure on the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan.


“The biggest handicap we had in Bajaur was that we didn’t have good imagery,” Air Chief Marshal Qamar said. “We didn’t have good target descriptions. We did not know the area. We were forced to use Google Earth.

“I didn’t want to face a similar situation in Swat,” he said.

In advance of the Swat campaign, the air force equipped about 10 F-16s with high-resolution, infrared sensors, provided by the United States, to conduct detailed reconnaissance of the entire valley.

The United States has also resumed secret drone flights performing military surveillance in the tribal areas, to provide Pakistani commanders with a wide array of videos and other information on militants, according to American officials.

The human rights wackos seem more tolerant of Pakistan collateral damage, but they still don't put the responsibility where it belongs on the Taliban for setting up positions in civilian areas in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

I believe the Bush administration made a deal to upgrade the Pakistan F-16s last fall. At the time I said that if they were used to go after the Taliban along the Afghan border they would be worth every penny. It looks like Pakistan is living up to my expectations so far.

They appear to be using a raiding strategy trying to wear down the Taliban with the precision raids before making an assault on the area. Pakistan is still deficient in learning the techniques of counterinsurgency operations. The army's irrational resistance to accepting US help in learning the techniques continues.

The video that accompanies the article is worth watching. Just go to the link above.


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